Refugees from Somalia engaging in sports. Photo by the UNHCR.

Sports utilized as a movement for peace, especially within emerging countries and areas with huge youth populations within refugee camps, has been has gotten another boost by the joint collaboration from the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met again, less than two months after having signed a historic agreement in New York aimed at strengthening collaboration between the two organizations at the highest level.

The topics under review included the situation in South Sudan, where war has forced millions of people from their homes, pushing them to the brink of famine. The IOC President informed the UN Secretary-General about a recent joint meeting he held between representatives of the Sudanese National Olympic Committee (NOC) and members of the South Sudanese sporting movement.

Following the recent signing of the MoU between the IOC and the UN, the South Sudanese said they were able to contact local representatives on the ground in South Sudan to work on potential projects. In parallel, the IOC has started to work with the NOC of Sudan, International Federations and training centres in the region to identify and assist athletes with the potential to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

President Bach said: “We believe that sport can be a strong driver for social change, and today’s visit by the UN Secretary-General strengthens once again our determination to use the values of sport to help build a better world. Whether it is with youth, refugees or wherever people are in need we are ready to serve. Sport can play a role, and we want to be at your side.”

Secretary-General Ban said: “The United Nations and the International Olympic Committee are committed to work together to harness the power of sport to promote development, advance human rights and build peace.”

Congolese refugee girls play football in Zambia (DRC) / Kala Camp, Kawambwa / by UNHCR / N. Behring

President Bach said: “We believe that sport can be a strong driver for social change, and today’s visit by the UN Secretary-General strengthens once again our determination to use the values of sport to help build a better world. Whether it is with youth, refugees or wherever people are in need we are ready to serve. Sport can play a role, and we want to be at your side.”

Secretary-General Ban said: “The United Nations and the International Olympic Committee are committed to work together to harness the power of sport to promote development, advance human rights and build peace.”

The meeting also covered a possible joint initiative in the Central African Republic. The project, initiated by the local NOC and supported by the IOC, would involve more than 1,800 athletes and sports representatives promoting sport as a tool for peace. The initiative would also encourage political leaders to work towards finding peaceful solutions to conflicts. Concrete activities would include peace “caravans”, sports competitions between neighborhoods and regions playing for “fair play and peace” trophies, as well as conferences and debates. Being very active in the country, the UN proposed that a feasibility study be conducted with regard to the implementation of the project.

The IOC President proposed IOC-UN collaboration on an initiative supporting athletes living in refugee camps. The two organizations have years of experience of working together in refugee camps in countries plagued by violence and war. Using the UN’s extensive networks in such camps, promising athletes would be identified, and, with the help of the IOC and Olympic Solidarity, would receive training and assistance.

President Bach underscored the IOC’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The IOC recognizes that the post-2015 development agenda is a historic opportunity to establish a global framework for sustainable development, and encourages UN Member States to consider sport as a cost-effective and valuable tool for achieving the SDGs.

The leaders also discussed the upcoming visit of IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge to Jordan to meet Syrian refugees. Rogge was recently appointed as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport. In this role, he will support the UN Secretary-General in advancing peace, development and an inclusive society through sport.

The IOC President also briefed the UN Secretary-General on the progress being made on the Olympic Agenda 2020, a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement. Fourteen Working Groups are meeting between 16 and 24 June to work on the thousands of contributions the IOC has received. Each group is made up of key stakeholders of the Olympic Movement and outside experts, including the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke.

The meeting ended with an update on the inauguration of the new IOC Sport for Hope Centre in Haiti, which is due to take place in July and be attended by both President Bach and UN Secretary-General Ban.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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