The benefits of sport are not limited to physical ones. Important economic and diplomatic social repercussions have long been recognised. Not by chance, the United Nations have long supported higher sporting values to overcome conflicts and discrimination. Since 2000, this trend strengthened and Sport is currently one of the prior driving force to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals. To celebrate a recent edition of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (every 6th April), António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, highlighted: "Those involved in sport also have responsibilities: to reduce its environmental footprint; to meet international labour standards; to fight discrimination and prejudices of all kinds; to reject corruption; and to ensure that major global events (...) leave a positive legacy”.
On the 30th November 2022, Peace and Sport International Forum held at Fairmont Hotel Monte Carlo, offered a series of inspiring keynotes and round tables on the topic "Sport is an answer for peace". Morning and afternoon sessions were animated by more than fifty international speakers, including Champions for Peace, sportspeople and associations committed in the cause worldwide addressed to more the 250 participants. A winning edition for Joël Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, NGO founded thirteen years ago by the support of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. The universal values of sport have the ability to unite people and convey positive messages to next generations.
Mr. Bouzou pointed out in his closing speech: « This is a very special moment for me and I am delighted that so many high-level personalities have come together after two years of pandemic to reaffirm that sport offers solutions to the resurgence of conflict, division, and hate speech. Fifteen years ago, the idea of peace through sport was utopian. Today the idea has accelerated and the actors for peace are in a position to provide concrete solutions through organisations which embodies best practices by multiplying their efforts on the ground. During this meeting, we talked about impact measures thanks to the expertise of Peace and Sport's family as well as sport champions fond of peace by sport activities able to influence and foster growth. I would like to thank them all for their valuable contributions and for these rich moments of sharing and learning. Peace through sport is a concept that works by creating a lot of hope and generates new partners ».
What about the general mood of this year's event? MONACŒCOART® selected some of the most remarkable interventions within various roundtables.
In his keynote speech, Layne Robinson, Director of Social Policy Development at The Commonwealth Secretariat pointed out: « Facing international conflicts, escalating violence in some communities and uncertainty across the world, I believe that this international platform helps bringing people together and this meeting is relevant. The theme highlights the potential of a sport-based approach to contribute to a wide ranging development. To be honest this is a challenge but also an opportunity to all of us. Living in a small island like Jamaica I was able to experience violence and conflicts among communities and the importance sport can play when they come together. The only time when guns stopped was the one sport was going on. So, sport matters and it can make a difference. A broader number of stakeholders need be mobilised and sport need to be integrated in local and international goals. Governments need to set common indicators to mark social assessment tools to prove how sport can contribute to make a better society. Community is where livelihood starts, Community is what shapes a Nation ».
Shaima Alhusseini, Managing Director at Saudi Sports For All stressed: « We are committed on liveability and wellness aspects of women as well as on community level. In particular, we focus on policy change from a top-bottom perspective to ensure women's voice like having a female member in each sport commitee federation. Creating safe spaces for women in terms of facilities and coaching is our second target. Cultural barriers are another topic that means begin physically active with breaking any social norm. Closing the gender gap in Saudi is also our mission. Introducing women's football for example to boost SDGs. The biggest challenge we are pursuing can be defined as the foi As: Awareness, Accessibility and Approximaty ». The session devoted to gender equality enhanced the role of sport as a 'way of life' accessible to everyone and at one's fingertips to enable women to practice sports at the same time as working and being mothers.
Vitor Pataco, President of the Portuguese Institute for Sports and Youth (IPDJ), underlined: « Being Portugal a young democracy born after a dictatorship, nowadays women do not have any kind of social limitation. However, national sports are definitely dominated by men (women represents only 30% of participants). So, in the last decades we are trying to change this trend, having a long-term action plan ahead. The Portuguese Government is thinking to introduce gender equality in sport-club accessibility. Creating possibilities for women is crucial ».
Félicité Rwemarika, Director & Founder of the Organization of Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS), stated : « When I came back to Rwanda in 1994, after the genocide against tutsi, the Government set the priority to support women's initiative in every possible direction. As I started a beauty salon business, I created a safe space for all ladies where I started networking. I though there was a need to create something to gather women's community. Practicing sport came out as the best idea, being a fundamental tool for conflict resolution and peace building ».
Photos >> Keynote Speech by Maher Nasser - Peace and Sport International Forum (Fairmont Monte Carlo, 30th November 2022) © Cédric Fruneau Peace and Sport
Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Global Communications, pointed out: « Some people could say that Agenda 2030 is too optimistic and cannot be achieved. But the experience we have learned at United Nations from the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 is that when you set concrete targets and goals, you work on that, you create policies and you implement to achieve them, then you make progress. We did it but it was not on track. The pandemic and the Russian invasion to Ukraine as well as the impact on food and energy supplies have further exasperated the gap. More and more people fell back into poverty and food insecurity. Some progress has been going on documented every year through national report reviews to be included in the SDG's report (every year in July). Nevertheless, climate change and conflicts still represent a real threat. So, how do we bring back the enthusiasm and commitment to get all hands on deck and comply with 2030's targets? How can media and publishing companies can create a better understanding of SDGs? These are a question we asked ourselves. There is an urgency and a lot of ambition. The power of sport is an inspiring and engaging activity that has a positive economic impact on the society helping to find peaceful solutions. The vintage photo depicting soldiers who are playing football in the background photos dated back to 1914 during the Christmas truce (1st World War).. That special day soldiers on the war line decided not to fight for a while but play football. So, sport brings peace and the latter is a crucial element to achieve development ».
As for sportspeople, Honey Thaljieh, first ever captain of the Palestinian Women's National Football Team, and Champion for Peace, stressed live from the World Cup in Doha: « I started playing football when I was seven years old near Bethlehem and I could experience how playing football could give me hope and opportunities for my life while teaching me to heat the goals in difficult circumstances as well as reinforcing my identity as a woman and Palestinian to bypass any stereotype and mindsets. Sport was definitely a key and football is essential to tackle social issues, from health to poverty, from gender equality to sustainability ».
Professional sport people are also some of the best good influencers as reiterated by Didier Drogba, Ivorian professional footballer, Champion for Peace: « I was myself inspired by great champions by Zimédine Zidane and Rolando then by United Nations goals, What happened in my Country and worldwide pushed me to use my voice to inspire other athletes making sure that we, sportspeople can change things since the global audience listen to us considering us role models. When the pandemic started, I thought how I could help through football, the most popular discipline globally. I would like to convey the message that the more active you are the more healthy you become. So, now I am committed to promote being active also within the World Cup. In 2005, when we have been qualifying for our first World Cup as Ivory Coast national team (2006 World Cup), I asked my teammates in the cloakroom to ask our politicians to stop conflicts in the middle of a civil war, to talk each other at the same table. We understood slowly the power of sport. Since then, I have been supporting the cause ». In 2007, the Didier Drogba Foundation was born to facilitate health and education for the most vulnerable areas. Among other initiatives, in 2019 Drogba succeeded in gathering the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in Pila, a city divided into two cultures.
As Joël Bouzou concluded: «Together, from the neutrality of the Principality of Monaco, we are committed to contributing to change. I look forward to seeing the collaborations that have emerged during this event grow ».
Peace and Sport Awards.
The Award Ceremony concluded the summit with the aim to putting under the spotlight the best sporting values at the service of society.
H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia and 1995 Golden Ball winner, was awarded the Peace and Sport Special Prize by H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monacofor his commitment to democracy and reconciliation in his country.
Ons Jabeur, international tennis player, was awarded the Peace Champion of the Year Prize for being a source of inspiration for women and youth around the world.
– Special Jury Prize: The International Cycling Union (UCI), which has set up solidarity actions in favour of Afghan women cyclists, enabling them to continue to practice their sport outside the country.
– April6 Initiative of the Year: Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation for Sport for its incredible mobilisation on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
– CSR Initiative of the Year: Les Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès for putting girls’ education at the forefront of its CSR roadmap with the ‘Empowering Girls through Football’ programme.
– NGO of the Year: 4-H Zimbabwe Foundation for its Sport for Peace and Tolerance project which aims to unite traditionally opposing community groups through the organisation of sports tournaments.
– Institution of the Year: Birmingham City Council for using the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to strengthen links between communities from different ethnic backgrounds. °°°
To know more about Peace and Sport please visit: https://www.peace-sport.org/
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By Maurice Abbati
Springer International Publishing