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Identifying issues for global SDP leadership after the UNOSDP closure

Copyrights: Flickr: Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development

Identifying issues for global SDP leadership after the UNOSDP closure

Iain Lindsey provides insights on the future role of the IOC Commission in sport and development.

The implications of the closure of the UNOSDP and the United Nation’s new partnership with the IOC are still unclear, particularly as the decision appeared suddenly and without many details. But a further reason for current uncertainty is the lack of effective explanation of the role of the UNOSDP over a number of years. Analysis of trends and developments in sport and development more broadly can, however, lead us to some insights into the potential relevance and challenges of the UNOSDP, the IOC and other institutions with roles in the global leadership of the sector.

Advocacy for the sport and development sector was the clearest aspect of the mandate of the UNOSDP and the UN’s Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace. Significant gains from collective advocacy by the UNOSDP and many other organisations can be identified. Most significantly in terms of global development policy, sport was recently recognised as ‘an important enabler of sustainable development’ in the UN resolution adopting the Sustainable Development Goals. Ongoing advocacy has also led to increased, if still variable, engagement of national governments with SDP. Finally, as evidenced on this platform itself, there has been a rapid increase in non-government organisations and other civil society and private sector organisations involved with, and delivering, SDP projects.

If collective advocacy has, therefore, had a good degree of success then there remains a significant gap in the development of policy for SDP. Over time, for example, increasing numbers of countries in sub-Saharan Africa have included passages on sport within their national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, but these have typically referenced plans to improve facilities and take other actions associated with the development of sport itself. This trend suggests that policy makers lack detailed understanding of what they can do to enhance the use of sport towards different development outcomes. In this regard, UNOSDP efforts to improve implementation of SDP by governments and other stakeholders appears to have waned after the period in mid-2000s when they published a range of guidance documents for SDP.

It is also arguable whether the UNOSDP recognised or encouraged action to address issues associated with sport that may actually impede development and peace. One of their last summary publications highlighted multiple, potential contributions of sport across all seventeen of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, many of the specific SDG Targets bring into focus problems such as gender inequality, corruption, violence, and treatment of workers that are prevalent within sport. Significant reform across the whole of sport is required to address such problems, but was likely to be beyond the remit of the UNOSDP.

So, what of the future with the IOC playing some role in the absence of the UNOSDP. Of the three areas considered in this article, the IOC may be best placed to continue to advocate for SDP alongside various stakeholders in the sector. Whether the IOC can encourage policy development for SDP may be more doubtful, given that their key relationships are with sporting bodies rather than governments. Most doubtful is the strength of the IOC’s commitment to fundamental reforms that address deep roots of problems within sport that detract from development goals. That being the case, the full potential for aligning sport with development and peace may well go unrealised without alternative global leadership.





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Monday, June 19, 2017 - 14:35