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2021 on sportanddev: A year in review

Copyrights: Global Partnership for Education

2021 on sportanddev: A year in review

As we begin a new year, we look back at some of sportanddev's highlights from last year.


We started the year highlighting a report on our call for articles and webinar on reimagining the future of sport and development. Ten key themes emerged, which can be seen as recommendations for the sector moving forward.

We also contributed to a study on fundraising led by Oaks Consultancy. This highlighted that the pandemic had left the future of more than a fifth of sport and development organisations in jeopardy.


February saw FIFA launch a new global education programme to strengthen safeguarding in football, the World Health Organization (WHO) release new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour and UNESCO publish three documents on their Quality Physical Education project.


In early March, we announced a new partnership with the Journal of Sport for Development, to strengthen research and learning in sport and development. We also launched an Erasmus+ funded project, the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab, with partners across Europe.

We celebrated Women’s History Month with an article on women’s participation in sport and another on empowering women through comfortable sportswear. We also marked the International Day of Happiness on 19 March with an article on the importance of fun in sport programmes.

Also in March, the Commonwealth launched a new tool to help member countries make informed decisions during the pandemic and the Australian government launched Team Up, a new phase of their sport for development programme. The UN used sport to highlight the need for vaccine equity, with sportanddev joining WHO’s call to support the same.


Leading up to the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April, we received over 30 articles on how people were celebrating the day and nine commentary articles on how sport must move forward.

We announced a new partnership with the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) to promote sustainable development initiatives in sport, and launched the second run of our global course on sport for sustainable development. Developed in partnership with the Commonwealth and the Australian government, by the end of the 2021 more than 5,300 people had registered since the launch of the first iteration in July 2020.

As the world began to vaccinate, we wrote an article on the dilemma behind prioritising Olympic athletes for vaccinations for the upcoming Games. We celebrated Dalit History Month by highlighting six Dalit athletes and marked the World Day of Safety and Health at Work by discussing how COVID-19 exposes the occupational risks in sport and development.


With the world grappling with new and deadly waves of COVID-19, we wrote an article debating if the Tokyo Games should be cancelled.

We also wrote on how sport can be political, celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by profiling six athletes from those communities, and highlighted the positive effects of physical activity in mitigating symptoms of bipolar disorder to mark Mental Health Awareness Month.

Also in May, we held two interactive webinars to discuss our global course on sport for sustainable development.

In the same month, GIZ launched their S4D Learning Lab, collating free resources and webinars developed by GIZ and partners from around the world.


To mark Pride Month, we highlighted six LGBTQ+ athletes who have challenged heteronormativity in sport.

Gearing up for the Tokyo Paralympics, we interviewed Ileana Rodriguez, Chef de Mission of the first ever Refugee Paralympic Team on her experience in forming the team. We also celebrated World Refugee Day with a photo series profiling eight refugees for whom sport has been a support as they resettled into their new lives.

Also in June, seven Football for Unity festivals were held in UEFA EURO 2020 host cities to show how football can build bridges, and the International Olympic Committee launched the International Safeguarding Officer in Sport certificate programme.


As the Tokyo Olympics began, we published an article on the contentious practice of sex testing in sport and another on controversies around the Games not being inclusive. Our senior consultant Ben Sanders presented at the Sport Philanthropy World conference, discussing how many face obstacles in accessing their right to sport.

We also wrote on how sport federations can support refugees, and, as part of the Sport for Social Cohesion Lab, we released an exploratory study mapping the organisations working on sport for social cohesion in Europe.

July saw the creation of the Global Observatory for Women, Sport, Physical Education and Physical activity in Lausanne. Also, activists wrote an open letter calling on the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee to amend their rules on political demonstrations at the Games.


In August, we began to publish articles from our call on youth engagement and leadership in sport for development, receiving over 50 submissions from around the world. Read a report on the call for articles here.

We also published the results from our annual survey, and users reported that continue to view sportanddev as the leading source of information in the field.

As the Olympics wound up, Women Win highlighted how the most ‘gender-equal’ Olympics were far from achieving substantive equality, and we interviewed Amazin LeThi to discuss the challenges of being a minority athlete.

We also highlighted a report from the Hamilton Commission on the lack of diversity in motorsports. Finally, to celebrate the start of the Paralympics, we profiled the six Refugee Paralympic Team athletes.


September saw us launch our campaign to reshape the future of sport and development, with governments, NGOs and governing bodies joining in. We announced our partnership with Translators without Borders, who translate our online course into all official UN languages.

We wrote an article on how sportswomen are challenging controversial rules around women’s uniforms, and marked Equal Pay Day by highlighting the gender pay gap that exists in sport. We also recapped the thrilling Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Also in September was the 2021 Parkinson’s World Table Tennis Championship in Berlin, with 135 athletes from 21 countries in attendance. A new tool was launched to address organisational and structural racism in sport organisations and research by FC Barcelona and UNICEF highlighted how sport for development for children can be improved.


In October, we announced two important partnerships – one with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Foundation, who joined our Steering Board, and another with the Swedish Postcode Foundation, who are supporting the upgrade of our platform.

We celebrated LGBT History month with an article tracing LGBT history in sport, marked Disarmament Week by highlighting how sport can encourage community-level disarmament and acknowledged Black History Month in the UK by profiling six Black British athletes.

October also saw the African Union Sport Council launch a new practitioner’s guide to safeguarding in sport, the International Boxing Association unveil their theme of “Fair Chance, Fair Fight” for the upcoming World Boxing Championships, and the Laureus ‘Sport for Good Cities’ initiative recognised by WHO as a template for building active cities. 


In November, we published articles from our call on including and supporting displaced women and girls through sport, receiving over 20 articles. We also held a Week of Action on Sport and Refugees, in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, from 8-12 November, which included a Twitter Q&A and a webinar on including displaced women and girls in sport.

We highlighted the role that sport played at COP26, illustrating the way sport can tackle climate change. To celebrate Trans Awareness Week, we profiled six trans athletes that have made history in sport, and we marked Native American Heritage Month in the US by profiling six Native American sportspersons.

Also in November, the MOVE Congress took place in Brussels; the UK Minister of Sport and Civil Society called for sport to help communities build back better from COVID-19; the IOC released a new framework on inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender and sex variation; and GIZ released a podcast series on how sport can end gender-based violence, to mark 16 Days of Activism 2021.


In the final month of the year, we convened partners from our global campaign on reshaping the future of sport and development to discuss how sport can better serve society. Marking the end of 16 Days of Activism, we highlighted six instances were sportswomen spoke out about their personal experiences with sexual harassment and violence.

Also in December, the International Safeguards for Children in Sport launched a new website, and activists called on the UN Human Rights Council to include sport in its global human rights work.

Looking forward

In 2021, we all became a little more used to the new normal, brought about by COVID-19. Yet, just as things began to look as returning to the way things were, many parts of the world have been thrown into yet another wave of the virus.

As we move into 2022, we must look back at the lessons learnt from 2021 and continue the work that we have started. Whether that is in demanding vaccine equity, ensuring that sport is more inclusive, or using sport to uplift the marginalised, we must face these pressing issues with a united front, and play our part to reshape the future of sport and development.

On sportanddev, we have a lot to look forward to in 2022. These include global discussions with our community as part of our campaign on these issues, as well as the launch of a new and improved sportanddev website. Watch this space!


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Wednesday, January 12, 2022 - 06:18

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