Collaborating for Development through Sport

08/11/2011 08:00


The international conference Sport as a Mediator between Cultures is the first joint event of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Germany, and the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Israel, after signing a protocol of co-operation in late 2010.


Both ministries, in partnership with ICSSPE and other international partners, will host the conference from 15-17 September, 2011, at Wingate Institute, Israel. International experts and all other interested are invited to participate and contribute to this collaboration for development and peace through sport.


In an interview with ICSSPE, Karl-Heinz Schneider, Head of the Division for European Union and International Sport Affairs at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Germany, and Uri Schaefer, Deputy Director General and Sport Authority Director at the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Israel, explain their motivation for jointly hosting this conference.


ICSSPE: Why did you choose the thematic area of Sport for Development and Peace for your first conference after signing a protocol of co-operation?

Schneider: Following the signing of the protocol on co-operation in the field of sports between the Israeli Ministry of Sports and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Israeli Director of Sports, Dr. Uri Schaefer, and I agreed to put the protocol into practice as soon as possible, deciding to carry out a joint project that would promote and support peace. We thought that sport as a factor that may help build bridges between diverging interests should be studied and discussed by international experts. This is how we came up with the idea for the conference “Sport as a Mediator between Cultures” at the Wingate Institute. Schaefer: We choose this subject because of its utmost importance and we think it would be of interest for all the stakeholders. In addition through this topic we can express and show the social power of sport when used as a mean and not just as an aim. 


ICSSPE: How do you think “Sport as a Mediator between Cultures” may contribute to or even advance the relationship between the ministries? What further political and cultural goals will you pursue with this event?

Schaefer: We anticipate that based on this groundbreaking and unique fruitful co-operation between the two ministries can further and deepen the co-operation which hopefully will lead to a bilateral agreement in the field of sport between the two countries. Furthermore, both ministries express the hope and the desire to see future conferences of this calibre taking place next year in an Arab city, either in the Palestinian Authority or in Jordan. Schneider: We are not holding this conference to improve the close co-operation between the two ministries, on the contrary, this conference is an example of the excellent and friendly relationship we have already established. Jointly planning, organising and hosting such a conference, which is extremely ambitious both in terms of the topics and the logistics involved, requires two partners who know and trust each other. Our two ministries agree on the political and cultural objectives that we pursue. The two ministries have invited academics, practitioners, representatives of funding organisations and other interested people and organisations to the conference where they can jointly develop an understanding of how sport can contribute to social development, peace-building and reconciliation based on current knowledge. Our clear goal is to host a follow-up conference in this region no later than two years after this one with participants from the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, from Israel and all interested countries of the Mediterranean and the rest of the world. I hope very much that we will succeed. The peace process must make further progress, and sport can make a unique contribution to overcoming conflicting interests.


ICSSPE: Beyond the collaboration between your ministries, what are the other goals of the event? Whose attention would you like to attract to the conference and why? Who would you like to participate?

Schaefer: We believe that this conference may be of interest for sport scientists, physical education teachers, coaches, sport administrators, directors of community centres and all those who believe in sport as a tool to maximize one`s motor abilities and as a vehicle to unite people and support people to overcome resolve conflicts. As mentioned above, sport is the ultimate social tool that can help build new bridges between people of different religions and backgrounds. Sport is an international language which everyone at any age can join and enjoy, sport and the pursuit of an active life-style contribute to the well being of all mankind no matter who they are and where they come from. Schneider: This conference is addressed to academics, experts and practitioners from all continents and offers them a platform to share their views on sport as a vehicle for peace and development. I am extremely proud that we were successful in receiving UNESCO patronage for this event. I wish to also thank the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, most warmly for this contribution. Let me also thank Mr Willi Lemke, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, and Mr Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, for their interest in our conference. This shows that our initiative has already met with great interest and that the topic we have chosen is recognised throughout the world. This is also due to the major contribution made by Mr Detlef Dumon, Executive Director of ICSSPE.


ICSSPE: Why did you choose the Wingate Institute in Israel as the venue for the conference? What impacts do you expect from this but also for other regions in the world and the people living there?

Schneider: I am grateful that Israel suggested the renowned and widely recognised Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport Sciences and Zinman College of Physical Education and Sport Science as the conference venue. Following their suggestion, we jointly chose this venue for our conference. Thus we have made sure that many experts from similar institutes outside of the political sphere and the ministries will participate in the conference. In July, at bilateral discussions with the French Ministry of Sport in Paris, Mr Thierry Maudet, the Director General of the French national sport institute INSEP, expressed his interest in sending a French expert to this conference. The German Federal Institute of Sport Science has also been involved in organising and hosting this conference. I am pleased that its Director, Jürgen Fischer, will accompany the German delegation. In other words, I think that this conference will also create new synergies and forge networks between shared interests and research projects, outside of the political sphere. Schaefer: Israel as the host country selected Wingate because it is the National Sport Institute. It has world-wide reputation and has the set up to welcome delegates from around the world.


ICSSPE: How are preparations for this year´s conference going? Who you are expecting to attend? What can you say about the work with the organising partners, especially the collaborating ministries?

Schaefer: It seems that we could not anticipate better collaboration and co-operation between the two ministries. It should be emphasised that ICSSPE is playing a major role in promotind and handling all the preparations for this conference among all the partners. Nevertheless the discussions and deliberations we had with our counterpart where very positive and contribute significantly to the successful preparation for the conference. Schneider: Many small steps were necessary before this conference could be held. Mr Dumon and I, as the representative of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, met not only with the ambassadors of the main Mediterranean countries, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey, but also with the ambassador of Jordan and the General Delegate of Palestine in Berlin to ask for their support for our conference. As I said at the beginning, co-operation with our Israeli colleagues at the ministerial level is always productive and cordial.


ICSSPE: Is there anything you would like to emphasise as special about the event?

Schneider: Yes, first of all, I am convinced, and this is also what my heart tells me, that co-operation on this conference between the two ministries responsible for sport is excellent. There has been close co-operation between the sport federations of our two countries for a long time. Football is just one example. However, this bilateral co-operation now involves the two responsible ministries. Secondly, this conference is intended to make a contribution to peace-keeping and understanding in the region and to help build bridges between the different continents and ideologies in our international and globalised world. Sport can do a lot in this respect. We Germans in particular are aware of how sport can build bridges and act as a mediator. Schaefer: Many new organisations are promoting sport and physical activity as one of the best "pill" one can take in order to fight high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety and other chronic illnesses. This conference is focusing on the value of sport as a social tool which can enhance co-operation between communities and people and help young people to stay off the streets.


ICSSPE: Following the conference, do you have plans for further activities with regard to the protocol of co-operation and what are these plans?

Schaefer: This is only the "Opening" of the mutual co-operation between the two ministries. It indicates that the sky is the limit. The more conferences, seminars, and perhaps friendly games in different sport activities we shall together conduct, the less ignorance people will demonstrate on each other and the world will become a better place to live. Schneider: I have already outlined that we are planning to host a follow-up conference. Of course, our future projects will go much further than that. In our Joint Protocol we listed numerous topics of co-operation. Following the conference, we will agree with our Israeli friends on the topics we will work on in the future. This is the normal method of good co-operation.


For more information and registration for the conference, please click here