Annan puts forward 3-year ‘sport for development’ plan; UN official stresses key role

Annan puts forward 3-year ‘sport for development’ plan; UN official stresses key role

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today put forward a 3-year Action Plan to incorporate sport into countries’ development programmes as a way of reducing conflict, slashing poverty, promoting gender equality and reducing a host of other social ills. The General Assembly is set to consider the Plan later today.

“It is a strategy to better integrate sport into the development agenda; incorporate sport in programmes for health, education, development and peace; utilize sport as a tool to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); and focus greater attention and resources on Sport for Development and Peace,” Mr. Annan states in a report to the Assembly incorporating the Plan.

The MDGs are an ambitious series of targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000, seeking to reduce extreme poverty, hunger, maternal and infant mortality, lack of access to education, as well as other social ills all by 2015.

“The Action Plan presents a framework to enable the United Nations system, Member States, the world of sport and other partners to build on the achievements of the Year,” Mr. Annan adds, referring to the International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005 that promoted links between sport, development and peace through games, seminars and other events worldwide.

Among the key recommendations included in Mr. Annan’s six-page Plan, are the need for a “global framework” incorporating a common vision as to how sport can promote development and peace, a call for Member States to initiate sports programmes to promote gender equality and also for armed forces to “use sport to promote friendship and for building peace and security.”

Speaking at a press briefing before the Assembly session, the UN’s top official for sport and development, and honorary President of the Swiss Olympic Association and former Director of the Swiss National Ski Team, stressed the importance of global sport and particularly its key role in attaining the MDGs.

“Today we know that sport is essential. I do what I believe in and I believe what I have seen… [sport is] essential to create a better world, essential to help us achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” said Adolf Ogi, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.

“It is low cost, it is high impact and we must use sport as a school for life. We must do more steps forward,” he added, as he launched a new book on the achievements of last year’s sport for development activities, and also highlighted in particular the universal popularity of football (soccer).

“Sport should be a human right. You know we have problems of obesity, we have a lot of other problems… and sport is an instrument and a very, very, very important instrument and therefore sport, football… you can play it everywhere.”

Mr. Ogi also highlighted the role of sport in promoting peace and starting dialogue between countries, noting for example table tennis “opened diplomatic relations” in the 1970s between the United States and China, while cricket has also played a similar role between India and Pakistan.