2nd International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

Reflections by Mia Caroline Wyszynski & Detlef Dumon
04/10/2015 16:40

From the local empowerment project for female school teachers in Afghanistan to the social legacy of sporting mega events, sport for development is en vogue.


Sport can help to encourage personal growth, overcome gender barriers, foster a healthy lifestyle and can build bridges across religious, ethnic and minority groups. Used appropriately, sport can break down stereotypes and be an innovative instrument to promote values such as fairness, mutual respect and equality.


These propositions seem to be a commonplace. But considering the remarkable number of sport for development projects all over the world and the rapid growth of the field, a few pressing issues need to be addressed: What do we mean when we speak about development? Who are the subjects and the objects of development ? And what are the objectives?  What, for example, have we gained if we manage to increase the participation rate in physical activity but continue to exclude certain groups of society by focusing, for example, only on football programmes for adolescents. Is this in line with our understanding of an open and respectful society where everybody enjoys equal rights and opportunities?


The tagline of the 2nd International Day for Sport for Development and Peace was United action towards sustainable development for all through sport. This is an exciting motto as it envisages sustainable development for everybody. This day is a welcome opportunity to ask ourselves if we are moving on the right track.  Sport for Development is impressively stimulated by thousands of grassroot initiatives, often led by young enthusiastic leaders with a sport or social work background. But who are the other players and what role do they play in this development context, UN agencies and programmes, sport federations and the sporting goods industry? Are we all innovative enough to make a significant change and promote environmental awareness and sustainable social practices ?  And as some of the leading players in the sporting goods industry come to understand their potential to influence young athletes, we need to ask how much could they contribute to sport and development if they invested as much in this field as they invest in organised sport programmes?


This leads to the question: Do we want change in quantity or in quality ?


What contribution can sport for development make to the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (which are part of the post-2015 development agenda)? Can sport a play role when it comes to addressing pressing issues like climate change and migration, or do we overload the concept of sport with such expectations?


The idea of sport for development offers the potential for a cross-sectoral approach.  But are some of us too idealistic if we are working towards a society that no longer differs between work methods, (e.g. scientific vs. industrial work, or industrial or economic sectors), but uses instead concepts for describing work as being inclusive, sustainable, respectful, environmental friendly, healthy rather than exclusive, profit-driven, and ruthless…


What do we want to reach and what are we doing to get there?