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The slow demise of the UNOSDP and the rise of Olympism

Copyrights: pixabay

The slow demise of the UNOSDP and the rise of Olympism

“Grassroot organisations started the SDP movement, continue to grow the SDP movement and provide the platform upon which policy level dialogue can exist. With the closure of the UNOSDP the movement has not changed, simply our representative at policy level.”

The rise and fall of the UNOSDP 

In the beginning the UNOSDP was set up with the best of intentions, and for the sector it felt like real progress to have a UN entity dedicated to the use of sport as a tool for development. It also led to some incredible work by both the office itself, and the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDP IWG) which was set up to support, inform and guide the UNOSDP’s focus. It led to comprehensive reports complete with policy recommendations for governments, 6 April (International Day of Sport for Development and Peace) and of course it gave the sector a seat at the table at the highest levels.

But with time the UNOSDP started to lose momentum. The SDP IWG ceased to exist and with it came an end to the high-level quality policy guidelines that were so valued. There was less advocacy work, little in the way of concrete communications, and in general the office started to become irrelevant. Ultimately its closure should come as no surprise and could easily have happened sooner.

The road ahead

However, the closure of the UNOSDP is not a setback for the sector. SDP has, and continues to be, driven by the local, national and international organisations that day after day deliver high value support programmes to those who need it most. Organisations such as Fight for Peace, Skateistan, Right to Play, Slum Soccer, Play & Train, EduSport, Sport in Action, PeacePlayers International, Goodsport, Futebol da Forca, Sport without Borders, the list goes on and on. With the support of networks and platforms such as streetfootballworld, Women Win, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, and the daily delivery of programme activities, that have been and continue to be at the core of the sector’s legitimacy, will continue. This created the platform for the UNOSDP to work, and the same will be true for the IOC in the future.

And the sector has not lost its place at the table when discussing policy. In addition to a number of UN entities looking to sport as an innovative approach to achieving development goals, the UN strengthened the partnership with the IOC and maintained a commitment to sport for development. This is a move that has been met with mixed emotions and while we can and must push the IOC to improve the manner in which it manages the Olympic Games process from start to finish, it should be done from the starting point of the Olympic philosophy itself: Olympism. If we can focus on the original philosophy of the IOC “blending sport with culture and education…to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”, is that not a great starting point for the sector to enter its next phase of growth?


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David Given-Sjölander


Monday, June 19, 2017 - 15:46