Celebrating Sport for Development and Peace

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When the darkness of the apartheid regime faded away to give light to a multiracial South Africa, few could have imagined the role played by sport in the national building process of what would turned the country in a rainbow nation.

Yet as portrayed in Invictus, a movie about the role of Nelson Mandela during the rugby world cup in 1995, where he literally rallied the entire nation behind the Springboks, the national team, a symbol of then dominating Afrikaner minority, sport played a very important role in keeping the country together.

Such is the power and appeal of sport in creating positive outcomes at societal level that no one should be surprised that back in 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the sixth of April as International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

Today the world celebrates sport as one of the greatest vehicle to generate prosperity, well being and inclusion.

It is important that a new understanding emerges about the potential contributions that sport can bring to the society, offering meaningful and transformational opportunities for all, bridging divides and gaps existing within the societies.

As now, all around the world there is an incredible wealth of initiatives centered on the transformational role of sport with the International Platform on Sport and Development offering a vast resource center on the best practices of the sector.

Generally, the attention should not only on corporate social responsibility’s projects promoted by the biggest competitions from all sorts of disciplines like the NBA Cares, the premier social initiative of the top basketball association in North American or the incredible work that UEFA, the governing body of European football, is doing to promote development, peace and harmony through football.

What I am talking here is the work done by hundreds of not for profit all over the world who made sport their main tool of change. I am also referring to the formal recognition that sport can play in the official development assistance, greatly contributing to the implementation of the new sustainable goals that will soon replace the Millennium Development Goals.

The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, UNOSPD was created to promote, coordinate and advocate for a common approach to sport among the UN System.

It is very encouraging to know that that all UN Agencies have a strong footprint in using sport strategically to achieve their goals, being poverty eradication, child’s wellbeing, fight against HIV/AIDS or urban development.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General declared: “Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have a widespread approach. Most of all it is a powerful tool for progress and development”.

Bilateral and bilateral donors have also acknowledged the role of sport for development. Australia, for example, has a unique strategy “Development through Sport” to ensure that sport can be embedded in its official development assistance. Its second strategic outcome is of particular importance as it recognizes how sport can improve quality of life of people with disabilities.

Globally the Paralympics Games have assumed a more and more relevance and now millions of people watch them, giving the due respect and importance to the amazing achievements of athletes living with disabilities. In September Seoul will host the IBSA World Games, the global sport initiative for visually impaired persons, another great opportunity to highlight the power of inclusive sport.

On this particular issue of sport and disabilities, Nepal has all the potential to become an international powerhouse. It is not only leading on blind cricket but also wheelchair basketball is getting more and more prominent. In November last year, the best wheelchair basketball players represented the country in the first regional competition held in Bangladesh.

In December this year an even bigger tournament, organized by the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Center, is going to be held in Nepal.

At the same time in order to lay the foundations for a strong disability sport sector, we need to cement the enabling factors that can allow disability sport and more generally sport for disability to prosper in the country.

For example attempts at amending the national legislation promoting sport in the country, an outdated piece of law that does not make any reference to disability sport are stalled.

A conversation is undergoing, under the leadership of Nepal Spinal Cord Injury Sports Association, to set the building blocks for a disability sport federation that could group together all the not profits involved in the sector.

While this goal ambitious goal might be still years away, it is important to take into consideration the role played by the existing actors, including the National Paralympics Committee or better the two Paralympics Committees active in the country, one recognized by the Government and the other by the International Paralympics Committee, itself an anomaly that should be resolved through compromise and negotiations.

What can be realistically done is the creation of a Sport for Disability Network that, as informal group, can bring together in a neutral and impartial way, all the associations and groups promoting sport in the disability sector.

Surely the Government of Nepal can do much more to recognize Sport for Development and Peace, particularly in the disability sector, including redoubling its financial support to promote inclusion and health of persons living with disabilities through sports. This new effort should be carried out with total transparency and accountability.

Certainly the private sector can also play a very important role in providing financial support to enable the blossoming of sport for development with a particular focus on disabilities.

In India, a groundbreaking publication, the Power of Play, offers a bold vision to promote sport for development and even the Government is putting huge resources in the sector.

Nepal boasts incredible athletes that are not being recognized for their achievements. This is unfair and unacceptable. In this special day, we should not forget that sport is for all.



The author is Co-Founder of ENGAGE and Editor of Sharing4Good





Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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