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Sports has the power to motivate, and to inspire people. Its mass participation brings people together, and helps people feel included. On the pitch, players are required to abide by human values in the United Nations Charter including “respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork, and fairness.” Participating in sports and playing are even fundamental human rights that must be recognized worldwide. This notion was stipulated in 1978, when “UNESCO described sport and physical education as a fundamental right for all”.
In the context of helping peace and development, what is the role of sports? Its role, defined by UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace in 2003, is “to contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organized or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.”
For the UNOSDP, it tends to use sports that appeal to the masses over sports for the elite. As mass sports, due to its simplicity in nature and mass participation opportunities, makes it more accessible and relatable to the UNOSDP’s target group, who are likely living in impoverished areas. Furthermore, mass sports can teach players teamwork, and respect for others, which can translate into ideals of peace, tolerance, and non-violence.
Although sports is an effective way to cure development programs, it needs to be integrated with other components. The mixing of the two leads to more effective development, as it allows the values learn on the pitch be translated off the field and vice versa.
The UNOSDP recruits celebrities as ambassadors for its program. It believes that famous people garner more attention, and thus can use their celebrity status to reach more people. Here is a list of its current Goodwill Ambassadors.