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Play sports, not war, UN envoy tells Liberians

Play sports, not war, UN envoy tells Liberians

Encouraging Liberians to forever give up the battlefields of war for the playing fields of sport, a senior United Nations envoy arrived in the formerly strife-torn West African country today to launch an innovative Sports for Peace programme aimed at promoting reconciliation and development.

“I would like to spread out the message of sports as an essential tool for creating peace, national reconciliation and harmony,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace Adolf Ogi said ahead of the official launch at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia, the capital.

“Sport is a universal language, sport crosses all boundaries, sport provides a neutral ground for people to come together, sport provides communities the opportunity to come together and reconcile, sport teaches important values such as respect, tolerance, solidarity, teamwork and fairness,” he added.

A Sport for Peace Taskforce led by UNMIL was formed in Liberia last year to identify effective and practical ways for the short, medium and long-term development of sports in the interest of peace. Members include representatives of Liberia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, its National Olympic Committee, national sports federations, youth groups and non-government organizations (NGOs).

Through the assistance of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Liberian authorities and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) recently received a container-load of sporting goods and equipment valued at over $76,000 for the organisation of the five-week long programme in football, kickball and volleyball to be held throughout Liberia’s 15 counties.

“If this programme is well-received, Liberia will be an example for the rest of the world of how sports can be used as a tool to create peace, harmony, fun and friendship,” Mr. Ogi, a former President of Switzerland, said, calling on Liberians to support the programme.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Secretary-General Ban’s Special Representative for Liberia Alan Doss are expected to attend tomorrow’s inauguration.

Mr. Ogi has frequently noted the role that sports can play in promoting peace and starting dialogue both within and between countries, noting for example table tennis paved the way for diplomatic relations in the 1970s between the United States and China while cricket has also played a similar role between India and Pakistan.