Global perspective Human stories

Sport can produce valuable results in development and peace – UN official

Sport can produce valuable results in development and peace – UN official

Emphasizing that sport and physical activity can be utilized to boost development and peace, as well as provide important health benefits, a United Nations sports official today outlined UN-led initiatives in three countries to bring people together through sport.

“From international events to grassroots, sport brings people together in a way that can cross boundaries and break down barriers, making the playing field a simple and apolitical site,” Djibril Diallo, Director of the UN New York Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), told reporters at UN Headquarters today.

He noted that 60 per cent of adults worldwide do no take part in a sufficient amount of physical activity, with large-scale economic consequences. Mr. Diallo cited the example of the United States, where medical costs surged by $75 billion in 2000 due to physical inactivity and where it has been shown that $1 spent on exercise can save over $3 in medical costs.

Additionally, he observed that a lack of physical activity directly leads to almost two million deaths yearly, and therefore sport can play a crucial role in improving health.

UNOSDP has selected the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire as pilot countries for initiatives where sport could be utilized to help promote peace and development.

In the DRC, UNOSDP head and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace Adolf Ogi partnered with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to organize a sports activity held shortly before the country’s landmark elections last year.

Through the assistance of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Liberian authorities and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) 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.

Tomorrow, UN representatives will meet with a delegation from Côte d’Ivoire to determine how the world body can assist in the war-torn nation’s recovery and reconstruction phase.

Mr. Diallo stated that UNOSDP is participating with the African Union (AU) and the South African Organizing Committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup to capitalize on the popularity of football, especially among youth, to bolster education, health, gender equality and promote peace. For the first time ever, sports ministers from every African country will converge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 4 June to decide how best to use sport to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of anti-poverty targets to be met by 2015.

He also provided a follow-up to the first ever UN Global Youth Leadership Summit, which was organized by the UNOSDP. It took place last October, and brought together young leaders from all 192 Member States to raise awareness of critical issues and share ideas on how to overcome common problems.

Currently, these youth are involved in a vast array of projects, with over 100 of them being involved in nearly 400 activities in 70 countries.

Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Mohanlal Mittal, steel magnate and chair of the Council of Mentors for the Summit, for his and his group’s work in promoting private sector initiatives to motivate youth to participate in achieving the MDGs. The Council is the first of its kind to push for realizing the MDGs, and its members include prominent business leaders.