Hailing the immense power of sport to make the world a better, more tolerant place for all, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged all sportsmen and women to throw their energy into advocating the new sustainable development agenda currently being crafted by United Nations Member States.
“Sport plays an important role in society. It encourages individuals to take on challenges, build strong relationships and strive with others towards shared goals,” declared Mr. Ban in his remarks to the high level event at UN Headquarters on ‘United Action Towards Sustainable Development for All Through Sport.’
Emphasizing that sport can help keep kids in school, promote leadership skills and healthy lifestyles, and empower marginalized people, and that in times of conflict and unrest, sport can help provide victims with space to heal and grow, he said such qualities could assist the UN in negotiating a sustainability agenda that would succeed the landmark Millennium Development Goals, which wrap up at the end of 2015.
The Secretary-General recalled that in August 2013, the UN General Assembly established April 6 as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace to commemorate the first opening of the Olympic Games in 1896. In that context he thanked many of the participants ion today’s event, including his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke and distinguished athletes Billie Jean King and Dr. Cheri Blauwet.
“I am grateful to the Special Envoy on Youth Refugees and Sport, Jacques Rogge – although he is not here – for the work that he is doing for the growing numbers of displaced young people,” he said, stressing that sport has an important role to play in helping to restore some degree of normalcy to their lives.
Commending athletes who are using their fame and influence to help bring about social change, and recognizing the scores of volunteers who serve as coaches and supporters in local community clubs and projects, the UN chief said the international community must also pledge to strengthen the role that sport plays around the world.
“Let us use sport to leave a transformative and sustainable legacy for our children and grandchildren. It is their motivational appeal that gives hope and helps improve the lives of many,” he continued, expressing his hope that Member States negotiating the shape of the future development agenda see the importance of sport, not only in health, but in peace and harmony, reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect for others, and fair games and rule of law and human rights.
“All these will be duly reflected so that we all can work together to build this world better for all, where all the peoples human dignity and human rights and happiness and prosperity and wellbeing will be respected. Through sport we can foster inspiration and hope for a better future for all,” he said finally.
In his remarks, UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said is heartening to note that over the last 15 years, sport has contributed to the global campaign to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“As the world formulates an inclusive and transformative post-2015 development agenda, we should collectively support efforts to enhance the contribution of sport in achieving our sustainable development objectives,” he said, echoing the Secretary-General and stressing that sport has an important role to play in nearly every society around the world, including as a key asset for countries and communities seeking to engage and unite youth.
Beyond targeted efforts for youth, sport also fosters opportunities for vulnerable persons; including the disabled. “As an international community we must find more ways to make sport inclusive so that each and every member of our societies, particularly the most vulnerable, can enjoy its benefits,” said Mr. Kutesa.
Sports programmes should encourage the integration of disabled and non-disabled participants, alike, focusing on the skills and capabilities of each. Such efforts would help shift public perception about those with disabilities and promote further cohesion between all. And in that context, he commended the work of the International Paralympic Committee on behalf of persons with disabilities.
Further, he said, sport can play an invaluable role in uniting people and promoting reconciliation. Sport has proven capable of promoting peaceful coexistence in a unique and powerful way, while also providing a much-needed outlet and opportunity for healthy social interaction.
“I encourage Member States to consider all opportunities to use sport as an instrument for development and peace to unite people and communities around the world,” he concluded.