UN marks International Day with call for harnessing power of sport to build better world

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Addis Ababa, 6 April 2014  (WIC) – The United Nations is calling on global citizens to become part of its team to harness the power of sport to build a better world for all as it marks the first ever International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

“This International Day will highlight the potential of sport to advance human rights, eliminate barriers and promote global solidarity,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to mark the occasion.

“To reach our goals, we need all players on the field: governments, international organizations, the sport sector, civil society, and many others. I urge all global citizens to join this growing movement and become part of our team to harness the power of sport to build a better world for all.”

The UN General Assembly last August declared 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace to promote the role of sport and physical activity as a tool for development and peace.

“When it is deployed effectively, sport contributes to the advancement of peace, child and youth empowerment, health, social inclusion, and equality,” the President of the Assembly, John Ashe, said in his message for the International Day.

“In the past sport has helped create exchanges and friendly interactions between groups caught up in violent conflict. It has provided opportunities for youths to learn about moral values, fair play, motivation, leadership, and teamwork, while serving as a gateway to education,” he stated. “More than a celebration, let us see this day as an opportunity for the United Nations family to come together and recognize sport as a crucial means of building community.”

The UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) is promoting five key messages for the Day, and encourages that these messages will be spread around the world. They are: the power of sport to respect and promote dialogue; the power of sport to enhance life skills of children and youth; the power of sport to include everyone regardless of abilities; the power of sport to advance gender equality; and the power of sport to improve physical and mental health.

Wilfried Lemke, the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, is confident that this new international commemoration will further promote the value of sport as a catalyst for development and peace.

“The power of sport is limitless. Every day, people's lives are enriched by playing sport as it inspires team spirit, social interaction and a healthy body and mind,” he stated.

“I challenge everyone to look for those with limited or no access to sport and try to remove the barriers that stand in the way of their participation. It is our common responsibility to make sport accessible, and I hope that, through this International Day, we can raise the awareness needed to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the benefits of sport.”

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is using the Day to highlight the benefits of sport and healthy lifestyles on broader social development, citing its role in building self-confidence, empowering youth, promoting good health, and helping to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The convening power of sport makes it additionally compelling as a tool for advocacy and communication,” it added. In this regard, UNDP has appointed sporting personalities as Goodwill Ambassadors with the objective of creating public awareness about development issues, while promoting tolerance and peace.

Among the UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, six are sports champions – Ronaldo Nazario, Zinédine Zidane, Didier Drogba, Iker Casillas, Marta Viera da Silva, and Maria Sharapova.

“The observance of the Day will help spread awareness about the importance of sport as a tool to build a peaceful and better world and to recognize the potential of sport to create positive social change across the globe. It is also an opportunity to unite and celebrate together,” said Didier Drogba, on behalf of the UNDP team.

All Ambassadors are reaching out to the public in a series of posters to celebrate this day all together, as a team. (UN News)

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