By Vositha Wijenayake –
Sport has long being recognised as a tool for peace promotion. Its disregard for borders across nations, and the ability to bring together societies has enabled sports to play a significant role in promoting social integration, and economic development. Sport is also a powerful tool to address many issues of the society, including the promotion of peace and development. Having the capacity to strengthen social ties and networks, promote ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice, sport could further provide avenues to address issues in post conflict situations, and bring create solidarity among different peoples.
Sport: a Tool for Peace-building
Professor John Paul Lederach, the well-known conflict resolution scholar defines the concept of peace-building as a comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates and sustains the full array of processes, approaches and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationship.
This points to the need for building strong interpersonal and inter-group relations throughout society. It also highlights the need for attention being allocated to the role that the civil society and all stake holders plays in the peace building process. Peace building is not limited to one actor, and it success is to be achieved, it needs to be a multi-actor driven process which is holistic. This applies the same to sports, sports should not be the only approach, but one of the means and the tools to achieve peace building.
Sport for Integration
Sport has the ability to create an environment in which there is the possibility of bringing people together which would in turn make it possible to work towards the same goal. It also allows to develop respect to one another, share space and equipment.
Studies on fostering social integration show that there are many factors that contribute to the use of sport being successful in bringing about exchange and building relationships between different groups. This includes sport as a non-verbal means of communication where groups are not able to communicate in the same language, and sport as a means to engage in collective experience which allows direct physical contact. It has also noted sport’s ability to transcend class divisions.
Chairman of Sport for Peace, Education, Empowerment and Development, a non-governmental organisation working on the promotion of peace and reconciliation through sport Mr. Priyantha Pathirana stated, “In post conflict sport allows space for developing social integration and reconciliation. It’s ability to bring together communities in spite not having a common language to communicate in has allowed many youth to work together through sport, understand each other and to develop respect for each other.”
International Day for Sport Development & Peace
The United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution (A/RES/67/296) established 6th of April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP). Establishing the Day, the General Assembly invited “States, the United Nations system and, in particular, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, relevant international organizations, and international, regional and national sport organisations, civil society including, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders to cooperate, observe and raise awareness of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.”
Given its wide reach, popularity, the positive values it inculcates, sport possesses the capacity to contribute towards the United Nations’ objectives for development and peace. It is in order to highlight these characteristics of sport that 6th April was declared as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Adopting the day to focus on these elements indicate the recognition of the positive influence that sport can have on the advancement of human rights, and social and economic development.
Sport for Sustainable Development
Further, Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledge the role of sport for social progress. It states, and recognizes “the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect.”
“In 2015, sport is recognised as an important enabler of sustainable development and included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the international day dedicated for the purpose of development and peace provides an important platform to advocate more investment in sport, related infrastructure and quality physical education for youth among governments,” said Mr. Pathirana.
“Sri Lanka will also be organising activities that focus on these two themes, which further highlights empowerment, empowerment and education. The Day can be seen as an opportunity to promote sport and physical activity as a cost-effective and meaningful tool to address many needs related to education, social inclusion, youth empowerment, peace-building and sustainable development,” he added.