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Geneva Peace Talks: The role of sport

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Geneva Peace Talks: The role of sport

How does sport fit into the peacebuilding conversation?

The annual Geneva Peace Talks celebrate the International Day of Peace on 21 September. This year’s theme was “Peace Without Borders”. Speakers from around the world offered their perspectives and demonstrated the importance of breaking down barriers, both physical and self-constructed. 

A holistic approach to peacebuilding

While sport was not the focus of the conference, it was woven into a number of talks, often grouped with music, art and other cultural activities as tools to promote peacebuilding.  

Speakers Wala' Alsmadi and Zakaria EL Baba, representing Generations For Peace, gave examples of how to cross borders of impact, expectation and generations. They emphasised how sport can be an important enabler of peace for its ability to transcend these barriers.

Sport is a universal language that can be understood by anyone, making it an effective form for peacebuilding across cultural and social borders.” - Zakaria EL Baba

Their talk further explored how each of us learns and acts by example, with the most important teachers being those closest to us. Every person must lead by example, creating opportunities for peace in everyday life. Sport provides an opportunity to broaden impact, especially for coaches and other community leaders. In this way, it plays an important part of a holistic approach to building peace.

The role of the individual

Another recurring theme of the talks centred on the role of individual actions in constructing peaceful societies. This was further reinforced as the conference hosts guided attendees through moments of silent introspection and brief exchanges with neighbours. The number of youth in attendance, both as presenters and audience members, mirrored this theme, and reinforced the power of each person to contribute to building peace, regardless of age or situation.

In this sense, sport can be an important contributor to individual empowerment. While the inherent qualities of sport can encourage leadership qualities, it is the bonds created and lessons learnt in a safe environment that let youth develop these qualities. One project encouraging this process is the Line Up Live Up initiative developed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The curriculum highlights the power of sport to improve the lives of youth and in turn benefit their communities.

Sport’s place in the larger discussion

This year’s Peace Talks highlighted every person’s potential to create positive change and transform societies, starting with small actions. Sport and play can be excellent tools to help achieve this, and are vital in empowering the next generation of leaders. As sport is increasingly recognised as a tool for peace, it is important to encourage changemakers to bring sport to the forefront of future discussions.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - 10:27