The United Nations is gearing up for this week’s start of the soccer World Cup, aiming to harness public excitement about the world’s biggest sporting event to advance efforts to slash poverty, fight hunger and tackle other key social and economic problems.
With community festivals, television shows, posters, electronic games, multimedia campaigns and even a new song, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be under the spotlight during the month-long World Cup.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived today in Johannesburg ahead of Friday’s World Cup opening ceremony in the same city, beginning a five-nation African tour that will also take the UN chief to Burundi, Cameroon, Benin and Sierra Leone.
Mr. Ban held talks with South African President Jacob Zuma and later addressed the “Sports for Peace” gala dinner tonight alongside Wilfried Lemke, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. In his speech Mr. Ban highlighted the unifying power of sport and underscored the importance of the MDGs.
As part of the UN-wide effort, agencies that include the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have started promoting 8 Goals for Africa, a song recorded by eight artists from across the continent. A video recorded for the song will be shown in public viewing areas in South Africa throughout the World Cup.
The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) is holding community events in slum neighbourhoods that aim to promote sustainable urbanization; UNICEF is staging football festivals to raise awareness about the fight against child trafficking and exploitation; and the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is screening TV programmes about racism and tolerance.
Numerous other events and campaigns involving UN agencies, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), will also be held.
The renewed push on the MDGs is taking place just three months before world leaders are scheduled to gather at UN Headquarters in New York in September to chart the progress so far towards achieving the eight MDGs and discuss the ways forward.
At the Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders agreed to try to attain the MDGs – which include halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, tackling environmental degradation, and slashing maternal mortality – by 2015.