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e-Debate: Sport - Improving the global community


e-Debate: Sport - Improving the global community

Round three: Jutta Engelhardt argues that community level sport and physical activity can help tackle the economic, social and environmental challenges the global community will be facing post-2015.

The biggest challenges the global community will face post-2015 are already quite visible today. They will be three-fold: economic, social and environmental, and will affect the world’s population on a global scale as globalisation has become a reality. The economic challenges will get most of the attention despite the fact that the latter two will affect a bigger proportion of the global population.

Economic challenges
If we do not re-invent the economic system that drives human interaction today, economic challenges will play into the much-discussed scenario that the rich will get richer and the poor will become poorer. The biggest change to this scenario will be, however, that we no longer will talk about a North-South dichotomy, but that the economic divides will run through any society, those in the Global South as much as those in the North.

Reasons for this lie in the failed “social systems” that we still seem to believe in. We still believe that monetary rewards are the only source of motivation for high performance and that social services essentially need to be driven by good will. However, it is high time that raising children, caring for the elderly, sharing knowledge and innovation, and building communities – also through sport – is recognised as something worth paying for. Only if we jointly find a way to radically change the global reward system can we strive towards what UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon calls a Life of Dignity for All.

Social challenges
The social challenges we will face on a global scale will mirror the economic challenges: societies will be divided along the lines of the “haves” and the “have-nots”, those that eat and those that do not eat; those that access information through education and digital connection and those that do not. Youth unemployment will become the most burning issue, not only because of a lack of access to education, but also because of the lack of adaptation of the educational systems to changing realities.

One of these realities which educational systems seem to ignore, is the fact that half of the world’s population is dying of hunger whereas the other half is dying of too much food and inactivity. Both halves need to be taught to make the most of what mankind has been given: body and brain, finally making education link the cognitive and the physical as intricately as they are linked in every human being.

Environmental challenges
Despite the acknowledgement that today’s environmental challenges are caused by inappropriate human action, we continue our economic and social patterns as if our planet was an ever-forgiving goddess. However, land slides, storms, earthquakes and floods caused by global warming make those that exist on the fringes of societies even more vulnerable. If those suffering most had a real voice, we could no longer ignore them. But - just like youth -, they are easy to ignore in the political process, because their calls for fundamental change are too weak, too heterogeneous and too economically “unreasonable”.

Sport as a tool to address global inequality
Sport can help to tackle some of these challenges. It can make us aware that social interaction, manifest in play and simple physical activity accessible for all, can bring about innovation in how we look at the world surrounding us. A community that places value in bringing its members together, open to debate challenges while interacting joyfully guided by the rules of a game, can learn how to act together for the resolution of a challenge.

Sport can thus bridge the social divides if used for bringing the “haves” and “have-nots” together. Sport can also help to teach the next generations how to join forces with those that they consider opponents. If Fair Play is seriously respected and not only used to create extra benefit by undermining the rules, sport and play are fruitful methods of reaching out to many, making them communities of actors, assuring more and improved holistic education. Health as much as environmental messages can be packaged with practical “how to” guidance sparing the participants a purely theoretical lesson on how to eat, move or behave more environmentally friendly.

In the post-2015 debate, sport should thus be stressed as a tool for tackling economic, social and environmental challenges. It is not the mediatised sport that can bring about these changes; it is the community level sport and physical activity schemes that can shift paradigms of looking at the world and building new vision for an improved global community. This should be the sector’s focus post-2015.

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[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]


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Jutta Engelhardt


Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 15:45