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06 April 2021

International Day of Sport for Development and Peace: sport as a universal language

Today, 6 April, is the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP). Every year on this date we celebrate the role of sport in our daily lives, its ability to create new relationships, a sense of community and to promote development and social change. 

Sport and physical activity are key to stay fit and ensure personal physical and mental well-being. Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent social distancing has not helped to develop sporting activities, which in many cases is a moment of aggregation. Nevertheless, at this time, it is more essential than ever to remain active and to spread a healthy sport culture throughout the world.

Sport as a universal language that unite(d) nations

The importance of the role of sport also appears in the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.

Achieving the seventeen goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an ambitious and complex task. Sport can contribute to the achievement of these goals. Green economy and clean urban spaces and zero-emission facilities are prerequisites for healthy physical activities. Treating sport from an environmental point of view is an economic but also a cultural fact. The communicative power of sport is extraordinary. Sport is a universal language, allowing people of all cultures, ages, origins, languages and religions to speak and understand each other. Sport moves enormous energies and also many people, both physically, to practice or participate, and in their choices.

In this context, UNESCO, under the leadership of Director-General Audrey Azoulay has adopted Kazan Action Plan on 15 July 2017 within UNESCO's Sixth International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport. The Kazan Action plan plan marks the commitment to link sport policy development to the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations, as well as support to an overarching sport policy follow-up framework and five priority areas for international and national multi-stakeholder cooperation.

Out commitment

In implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, organizations like GEYC are at the forefront. In the four fields managed by GEYC (Democracy & Human Rights, Digital, Entrepreneurship & Employability, Sustainability) the SDGs are the foundations of the creation and promotion of policies, projects, events, workshops and conferences. Creating a common consciousness of these goals within the youth community is crucial for changing people’s perception of the problems and getting them into action.

An example can be the project EllE - Empower learn led Expand: YOUth4SDGs changing the rules transforming our world, an Erasmus Plus KA2 strategic partnership in the youth field organized by 5 youth organisations from Italy (coordinator), Greece, Portugal, Romania and Serbia which take place between May 2019 - June 2021 and aims at enhance Youth Skills to Help Advance SDGs, motivate the youngsters to get active, exchange experiences, knowledge and good practices, raise awareness  across all fields of SDGs and implementing them through empowered youth.

Sport as a driver for democracy and sustainability in the European Union

The European Union has often ensured that sport plays an important role in building European identity, sustainable development and conveying anti-discrimination messages. For years, the Union and its policies have been dealing with doping, match-fixing and allowing the smooth transfer of athletes by following the legal principles underlying the European project. The objectives are:

  1. Create a transparent, democratic and accountable system of sports governance.
  2. Promote fair and equitable rules against doping and match-fixing.
  3. Ensure the free movement of athletes in line with Internal Market principles.
  4. Preserve the physical and psychological integrity of athletes.

The Union constantly acts to support and promote dialogue between sports organisations, national governments and European policy-makers to ensure a healthy lifestyle for all EU citizens, especially the youngest. At the same time, sport is used as a tool to create a sense of social inclusion and integration and to combat racism and all forms of discrimination. The Union uses some of its most famous programmes such as Erasmus+, and cooperation with other supranational bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the Council of Europe, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and UNESCO.

In the European Commission there is the Directorate-General for Youth, Sport, Education and Culture (DG EAC. It has the aim to develop and implement policies in the field of sport and it works in three sport fields [2]:

  • Integrity of sport: promoting good governance and tackling corruption;
  • Economic dimension: innovation and digital single market;
  • Society: social inclusion, education, health, environment, media and sport diplomacy;

Particularly in the area of sustainability, the commission has developed several documents and initiatives, including the European Union Work Plan for Sport (2017-2020), the White Paper for sport (2014) and the SHARE Initiative.

The Work Plan for Sport (2017-2020) recognise that sport plays a positive role in the cross-sectoral cooperation at EU level and thereby helps to ensure sustainable development and to adequately tackle the overarching socio-economic and security related challenges facing the EU, including migration, social exclusion, radicalisation that may lead to violent extremism, unemployment, as well as unhealthy lifestyles and obesity. [3]

The White paper acknowledges that sport can contribute to the achievement of a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and that it is necessary to promote an economic dimension, in particular sustainable financing of sport, the legacy of major sport events, economic benefits of sport, innovation with a focus on environmental sustainability [4]

The SHARE Initiative, launched by the Commission in 2018, has the goal to raise awareness on the role of sport and physical activity in the context of regional and local development. The principle is that sport can have an impact in promoting urban regeneration, tourism, social cohesion, sport innovation and active, healthy communities and can help in achieving the goal of the 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy. [5]

Conclusions

It is necessary to formulate innovative solutions in political projects involving every sector. Sport is not exempt from the problems of sustainability and discrimination. It has to look towards the future, towards a sustainable future with a model based on participation and multidisciplinary knowledge, which affects the change of lifestyles, thus initiating a cultural revision.

To quote the words of the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay during the IDSDP 2018 [6]:

Sport is about both self-effort and collective effort, individual activity and social practice; it relies upon the concepts of respect, understanding, integration and dialogue, and it contributes to the development and fulfilment of individuals regardless of age, gender, origins, beliefs and opinions. That is why sport is a unique forum for action and reflection to transform our societies.

References

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