Top UN envoy explores how sports can improve lives of Middle East’s youth

29 May 2009
Children play amongst ruin in Gaza.

The United Nations envoy tasked with promoting sport for development and peace is slated for a 10-day trip to the Middle East next week in search of opportunities for using physical activity to improve the daily lives of children and youth in the region.

Starting in Jerusalem on 1 June, Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, will visit various sports-related programmes in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, including refugee camps run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Mr. Lemke will use his trip to support the UNRWA ‘Gaza Summer Games 2009,’ which brings together 250,000 children in a series of sporting, educational and recreational activities for eight weeks in summer.

“For children who have seen the livelihoods and lives of their families destroyed by conflict, sport can build trust and confidence in a better future,” said Mr. Lemke in a news release.

“Sport and physical education teaches youth and children positive social values and life skills such as team spirit, respect, discipline, leadership, self-confidence, empowerment, tolerance and integration,” added Mr. Lemke. “We have to do our utmost to provide hope and improve the daily life of youth and children since they are the future.”

The Special Adviser will also attend a youth training camp in Jordan, organized by Generations for Peace in Amman, which gathers more than 70 young leaders from 15 different countries.

Before arriving in Jerusalem, Mr. Lemke will travel to Qatar to meet with Government representatives and members of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), in particular its Secretary-General Sheikh Saoud al-Thani, a main supporter of the Global Sports Fund, a joint initiative by the QOC and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Mr. Lemke will also travel to Bahrain, where he will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, and visit various sports sites.


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