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Sport for protection: An approach for supporting the development and protection of displaced young people, through sport

Copyrights: Scort – Football Club Social Alliance

Sport for protection: An approach for supporting the development and protection of displaced young people, through sport

An introduction to the sport for protection approach produced and championed by UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency, the International Olympic Committee and Terre des hommes.

In 2018 UNHCR, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Swiss child relief agency Terre des hommes (Tdh) launched the Sport for Protection Toolkit: Programming with Young People in Forced Displacement Settings

The toolkit lays out the first iteration of the sport for protection approach. It aims to provide a framework for sport, development and humanitarian actors, that guides the design and implementation of protective and developmental sports initiatives for children and youth affected by displacement. It also outlines the essential components needed to provide a safe, protective and supportive environment, and to achieve positive social outcomes, including social inclusion, social cohesion and psychosocial wellbeing.

The evolution and strengthening of the sport for protection approach is ongoing and UNHCR and the Olympic Refuge Foundation would be very happy to hear and discuss any suggestions for improvement or modification, or your experiences in this area. Please share your thoughts with the UNHCR Sports Team HQsports@UNHCR.org, patrice.cholley@olympic.org at the Olympic Refuge Foundation and sportanddev on info@sportanddev.org.

1. The Warm-up: What is this toolkit about? 

Section 1 of the toolkit begins by setting out the background to the development of the sport for protection approach. It highlights that young people aged 10-24 years old make up a large proportion of displaced communities, but that they are frequently underserved. This is because of gaps in programming for this demographic and a poor understanding, overall, of young people’s needs. 

Section 1 outlines how the sport for protection approach is a combination of evidence-based elements from three different sectors:

  • Child protection: seeks to protect young people from harm and reduce the risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence
  • Youth empowerment: identifies and encourages the use of young people’s assets and potential
  • Sport for development and peace: provides an efficient, flexible and cost-effective way of promoting peace and development across societies

IS THIS SECTION FOR ME? Section 1 is useful to anyone who would like to learn more about the toolkit’s development, the process behind creating it and the definitions of some of the key concepts that underpin it.

2. The method of scoring: How do we protect young people through sport for protection? 

Section 2 introduces the theoretical and practical basis for using sport to achieve social and protection outcomes. It provides a Theory of Change and examines how projects, programmes and interventions can help realise positive change.

The section outlines youth development models and the need to focus on identifying and building young people’s assets rather than emphasising their deficits, Doing so gives them leadership experience and opportunities for meaningful engagement, and provides them with capable, trustworthy mentors.

Section 2 highlights that creating a safe and supportive environment is crucial to all sport for protection programmes. It also discusses the importance of identifying and including the most marginalised young people, considering factors such as age, gender, disability, sexuality or others.

IS THIS SECTION FOR ME? Section 2 is essential reading for anyone who would like to understand more about the three protection outcomes. It provides case studies and examples of how to tailor programmes to particular marginalised groups. It also sets out some basic guidelines and a checklist for practitioners on producing a safe and supportive environment. 

3. The court: What are the approaches that underpin sport for protection programmes? 

The toolkit has identified four approaches that inform sports-based programming with young, displaced peoples. 

  1. The Human Rights-Based Approach acknowledges that all young people—regardless of age, gender, ability, religion, race, political views or documentation status—are endowed with rights by virtue of their humanity and deserve to have those rights affirmed and protected
  2. The Socio-Ecological Approach considers the various forces— people, institutions and norms—that interact with young people and influence their wellbeing, either positively or negatively
  3. The Protection Systems Strengthening Approach identifies formal and informal systems that serve to protect young people from harm and looks for ways to connect them to relevant services
  4. The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Approach (MHPSS) supports psychosocial wellbeing by coordinating actors to provide the full range of support services for young people

There is often overlap between the approaches which consider the systems, norms, institutions and actors working with young people in conflict and displacement situations. 

IS THIS SECTION FOR ME? Section 3 is valuable for anyone wanting to gain a sound understanding of the four approaches. It provides readers with checklists, examples and ideas that can be applied to their own programmes. 

4. The game plan: What are the practical steps for sport for protection programming?

Drawing from programmes across different settings, section 4 introduces and discusses crucial ideas related to project management. It explores the phases of the project management cycle and provides a framework that practitioners can adapt to design and implement programmes. 

Before discussing these specifics, however, the toolkit highlights the themes that should influence overall programming. These include planning for sustainability, developing partnerships and engaging in advocacy. The other key theme is ensuring the meaningful participation of adolescents and youth.

The rest of the section includes guiding questions, case studies, academic and practical resources, and example indicators to measure impact. The section guides practitioners through the processes: how to decide areas for intervention, develop a logical framework, plan specific sessions, collect data and evaluate a programme. 

IS THIS SECTION FOR ME? Section 4 is useful to anyone looking for practical steps for project management. It supports organisations in making sure their sports-based programming with young people is effective and successful, demonstrating practically how to integrate the various approaches and methods into the project cycle.