UNITED NATIONS - United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach Tuesday signed an agreement between their respective organisations, marking a ‘historic step’ towards promoting the role of sports in development and peace.
“Sports have great power in bringing people together,” the secretary-general said following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at United Nations Headquarters in New York, where he thanked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the wider Olympic movement for being ‘such a steadfast partner of the United Nations.’
To boost this effort, Ban announced the appointment of Jacques Rogge of Belgium, the former IOC president and currently its honorary president, as his special envoy for ‘Youth Refugees and Sports’.
Rogge, a former Olympian, will help promote sports as an empowerment tool for youth from displaced and refugee communities towards peace, reconciliation, security, health, education, gender equality, and a more inclusive society, according to Ban’s spokesperson.
In conflict areas such as Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, and in the neighbouring countries which host millions of refugees, ‘sports have a role to play in helping to restore at least some sense of normalcy’, Ban said.
Sports can also motivate children to enroll and do well in school, empower girls and women by providing opportunities for leadership and accomplishments, and help reach many groups and communities with important messages on HIV/AIDS and other diseases, drug abuse and environmental protection. It can ‘be used to bridge cultural, religious, ethnic and social divides’, Ban stressed. He then quoted basketball legend Magic Johnson, who spoke in response to the growing controversy over racially insensitive comments involving the Los Angeles Clippers, “We all play with different races of people when you’re in sports. That’s what makes sports so beautiful.”
In his remarks, Bach said the IOC was ‘extremely honoured and proud and excited to join hands with the UN’ and he hoped that this move will bring their cooperation ‘to an even higher level’ and ‘even closer and better for humankind’.
Today’s event is a continuation of the inaugural International Day of Sports for Development and Peace, which was first celebrated on April 6 this year. At both events, Ban urged Member States to look at all possibilities to use sports as a tool for development and peace. President of General Assembly, John Ashe, also praised the power of sports, particularly now as the international community is outlining the priority agenda following 2015, the deadline for the eight anti-poverty targets known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“We hope to be able to count on the voices of athletes worldwide to put the spotlight on our new development goals, as well as to set an example by embracing sustainable practices,” Ashe said.
He said the virtues of sports are ‘an ideal match for what we hope to achieve here at the United Nations.’ ‘At its best, sports foster unity, encourages participation and inclusion, advances human rights, and promotes peace and development,” he added.