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International Day of Sport for Development and Peace “The Power of Sport”

4 April 2014
International Day of Sport for Development and Peace “The Power of Sport”

Closing remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
“The Power of Sport”
Palais des Nations, Room XIV
Friday, 4 April 2014 at 11:15 a.m.

Distinguished Ambassadors and Panellists
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you very much for giving me the floor. And my apologies for having missed the first part of the event. I have just arrived this morning from New York but I have enjoyed listening to the discussion now. Sport is a subject very close to my heart so I really wanted to be here today.

Let me join others here in thanking the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica and Qatar, our Host Country Switzerland at all levels, the Group of Friends for Sport for Development and Peace, Special Adviser Lemke and his team, and our sports partners for the excellent collaboration in organizing the first-ever International Day of Sport for Development and Peace here at the Palais des Nations. And hopefully not the last.

As the home of many international entities engaged in sport, Geneva – and all of Switzerland – is an important platform for exchanges on how to use sport for peace and development. This is also why the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace was established here by the first Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, former Swiss President Adolf Ogi.

We often highlight that the work of the international community in Geneva covers peace, rights and well-being – and I think that sport brings together all those dimensions. Maybe, at some point in the future, we should talk about sport not only for peace and development, but also for the promotion of human rights.

The potential of sport in promoting peace and development is clear, as it has been highlighted by many this morning: the potential for personal growth through better health and by instilling discipline, team spirit, respect for different skills and a sense of fairness. The potential for strengthening communities by building bridges and mutual understanding. And the potential at global level by uniting people in support of common goals and admiration of sporting achievement. When we add to this, the influence that sports personalities can have as role models, we have a really powerful instrument to advance peace and development – and ultimately, our shared ambition of a better world.

The challenge – as I see it – is to operationalize these qualities, to move from our intuitive understanding of the value of sport to using it as a practical instrument. This is also a challenge that has been touched upon in the debate today.

I will not attempt to sum up the discussions but allow me to share a couple of points that stand out for me when reflecting on how we can use sport to a greater extent:

First, we need to integrate sport more directly at an operational level in our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and, later on, in the post-2015 development work. This requires mainstreaming of sport and physical activity in international and national development plans to help drive growth and individual empowerment. The same is true for sport as a tool in peacebuilding and peace consolidation processes. We already have experience from peace operations, refugee camps and other contexts of vulnerability of how football, for example, can promote an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation, which – in turn – contributes to longer-term objectives. These efforts can be systematized for a deeper and more durable impact.

Second, we have to strengthen cooperation and coordination among the many partners engaged in this area. We have already heard some very good examples here today, and we should build on these. This is truly an area where partnerships across institutions are needed – both within the United Nations and with other organizations.

Third, we can link better the support provided for high performance sport with more inclusive approaches at community level. This requires strong institutions and a conscious effort to ensure a trickle-down effect so that sport can be a driver of meaningful social change.

Three quick points, which I hope can spark further reflection as we leave this meeting.

As the Secretary-General said in his message at the beginning, sport empowers and it promotes good health. As a very concrete initiative to achieve both objectives, the Sports Club of the Staff Coordination Council is launching today a cooperation with the Medical Service through which they will promote physical activity with walks and runs, especially aimed at colleagues who normally would not have the time or inclination to get involved in sport. I welcome this as an example of how we can engage people in sport and physical exercise through relatively simple and cost-effective means, also in contexts where it may not seem obvious – because I know how hard it is to get bureaucrats to move!

I thank you again for taking part today and I look forward to moving out of the meeting room and into the park to practice what we preach.

Thank you very much.