Human Rights Council holds Panel Discussion on Human Rights through sport and the olympic ideal27 February 2012
Geneva (OHCHR/UNOSDP) - The Human Rights Council held today a panel discussion on human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal, as requested by resolution 18/23 adopted by the Council during its 18th session in September 2011. The resolution stated that the next session should be holding “a high-level interactive panel discussion to highlight, examine and suggest ways in which sport and major sporting events, in particular the Olympic and Paralympic Games, can be used to promote awareness and understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the application of the principles enshrined therein.”
In an opening statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that several key United Nations documents acknowledged sport as a vehicle for peace and human development. Sport and human rights shared many fundamental values and objectives, and parts of the Olympic Charter rhymed perfectly with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, it was surprising to note how little interaction there had been so far between the human rights movement mechanisms and the world of sports. In view of the unique media attention attracted, the Olympic and Paralympic Games had enormous potential to promote awareness and understanding of human rights.
Jeremy Browne, United Kingdom Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, acting as moderator, said the United Kingdom, as a host of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games, wanted to make an important connection between the values embodied in this forum and the values embodied in the Olympic Games, such as values of humankind and the principle of equality for all the people. The United Kingdom wanted to harness the interest of the public and make sure that when people tuned in to watch the London 2012 games there would be a wider agenda visible, that of human rights, in addition to the games.
Keith Mills, Deputy Chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, speaking as a panelist, said that it would be a folly to suggest that sports were the answer to everything, but it was possible to use sports as ambassadors for peace and as catalysts for change, particularly for the young people. The United Kingdom was working to promote peace in several programmes, including the one where schools across the United Kingdom were using sports to address violence.
Carlos Nuzman, President of Rio 2016, speaking as a panelist, said the Rio 2016 Games would bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to a new territory: South America and its 400 million inhabitants. The project of the Rio 2016 Games was in line with the development goals set out in the Rio de Janeiro Master Plan to prioritize projects catering to youth. Structural changes to Rio would occur in transport and urban revitalization with the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit systems and the refurbishment of the port region.
Vladimir Lukin, Human Rights Ombudsman and President of the Russian Paralympics Committee, speaking as a panellist, said the practice of sports promoted human rights and only limited them when trainers and instructors had not engaged in education or provided personal examples of healthy living. Mr. Lukin suggested that a final document recommend States to strengthen education on the spirit of fair play and tolerance for others. Overcoming racism in sports remained one of the most urgent tasks of the international community.
In the discussion, speakers said there was no doubt that sport and major sporting events such as the Olympics and Paralympics had a major influence on sporting and international policies and promotion of human rights, while the Olympic ideals that had survived through the centuries since ancient times were a source of inspiration for all. How had the Paralympics affected policies on persons with disabilities in each of the countries that were organizing that important event? What international measures could be used to streamline the relationship between the Olympics and human rights? What was the best way to help Olympic athletes take messages of diversity and tolerance home after the Games? Girls and women were especially discriminated against and prevented from participating in the Games.
Speaking in the discussion were Greece, Azerbaijan, Amnesty International, Qatar, International Disability Alliance, Mauritania on behalf of the Arab Group, Costa Rica and Norway.
In concluding remarks, Maria do Rosario Nunes, Minister of Human Rights of Brazil, said that the legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics were as important as the events themselves. Stadiums were planned with universal access and infrastructure improvements would benefit communities. Brazil and the United Kingdom had proposed the panel with certainty that sports could have enormous benefit to promote human rights.
Also in concluding remarks, Anatole Fabien Marie, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, thanked Minister Jeremy Browne, the panelists and speakers for their contributions, which had highlighted ways of harnessing the vast potential of the Olympics and Paralympics to raise awareness and ownership of human rights as well as synergy between universal sporting values and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Council concluded its midday meeting at 2:50 p.m. and immediately resumed its High-level Segment.
Following the high-level discussion was the opening of an exhibition entitled “London 2012 - Rio 2016 – Transformation Through Sport", organized jointly by the Permanent Missions of Brazil and the United Kingdom. The exhibition will be on display until 23 March 2012.
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Read the transcript of the session here (Source: OHCHR).
For use of the information media; not an official record.