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Our vision for the future of sport and development

Copyrights: Football Beyond Borders

Our vision for the future of sport and development

“Sport has the power to change the world” said Nelson Mandela – yet, 18 years on from his famous speech, there remain serious gaps in our ability to properly define and evidence HOW sport will change the world.

Fortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030, championed by the United Nations, have recognised sport as an enabler of sustainable development and peace, meaning at long last we have a common purpose and ‘end game’ to work towards.

Sport can, and will, play a key role in the facilitation of various SDGs, such as SDG 3 (Good health and wellbeing), SDG 5 (Gender equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities), among others. In this regard, one of our steering board members, the Commonwealth Secretariat, is currently developing a toolkit and model indicators. This will measure the contribution of sport, physical activity and physical education to the SDGs, enabling governments and policy-makers to utilise measurement frameworks, best practices and quality standards from around the world.

In other words, there should soon be less of the evangelism which has accompanied Mandela’s famous phrase so often over the years, and more of the evidence to fulfil it.

Yet if sport is to play an effective role in solving some of humanity’s biggest challenges, it is important to ask WHY it has not contributed more until now. Only then can we recognise what must be done to galvanise key stakeholders, both inside and outside of sport. There are many reasons, but here are a few:

  • In the past mainstream sport has been unable, or lacked the inclination, to define its impact in terms which clearly demonstrate its social value to other sectors, and thus has been undervalued by them.
  • Other sectors have been slow to realise the value of sport in achieving their desired outcomes, largely because of a lack of evidence but also perhaps because of the modern-day travails of elite sport.
  • Sport for development actors have proliferated across the globe at grassroots level but, since they are diffuse and lack a common framework, have lacked a strong voice when lobbying the next tier of more influential actors – which includes sports governing bodies, governments and private sector organisations.
  • The UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace closed in May 2017, creating a void in the leadership and representation of those grassroots actors. This too must be remedied.

At sportanddev, our pledge is to bring the sport and development sectors together and provide an impartial and progressive ‘safe space’ online where grassroots actors can be heard and empowered, while key decision-makers can engage and interact with the industry, and access its evidence to better inform and shape policy.

This is a collaborative approach, funded by UEFA and the Australian government among other Steering Board members. This type of approach is also bearing fruit elsewhere – for example with the launch in Geneva this year of a ‘Centre for Sport and Human Rights’ supported by a diverse coalition of governments, human rights organisations, corporates and – most importantly – sports governing bodies like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

Our vision for sport and development follows a similar model, through a digital forum which extends far beyond the borders of Western Europe. It will eventually properly represent the Global South, including those countries where sport has been proven to engage with communities which other interventions fail to reach.

Such models, which are open and transparent about progress towards agreed global goals, provide a golden opportunity for sport’s leaders to demonstrate that they really are committed to creating a better world, despite the shortcomings of some of their predecessors. Our mission is to work closely with them, and help them to prove that Mandela’s ambition for sport is no empty legacy.


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Simon Lansley


Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 12:50

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