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Sport and development’s big chance? The 2030 agenda for sustainable development


Sport and development’s big chance? The 2030 agenda for sustainable development

Monday marked a monumental day for the international community as agreement was reached on the United Nations' '2030 agenda for sustainable development'. asks, is it good news for the sport and development field?

This is the first article in a five part series on sport and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development to feature in the newsletter over the next five issues.

Monday's agreement on the final text for the ‘2030 agenda for sustainable development’ marks the penultimate step of a two year long consultation process involving 193 member states and wider civil society. The previous eight MDGs have been replaced by 17 new goals. This week, the consultation process has culminated in the publication of the #action2015 report ‘Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development’, which will be formally accepted at a summit in September.

The sport and development community and its advocates have experienced an unparalleled level of attention during this process, particularly on the international stage with numerous comments from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the importance of sport and its role in development.

What does the #action2015 report actually say on sport?

Many in the sport and development community will be excited about what the inclusion of a paragraph on sport means for the future of the sector. Advocates could perhaps be forgiven for perceiving this short but crucial paragraph as sport and development’s arrival onto the big stage of credible development policy.

Sport as a tool to promote peace, tolerance and cultural understanding
The inclusion of sport alongside the issues of promoting peace and tolerance should not be surprising, Resolution 69/6 – ‘Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace’ (October 2014) presents a strong case for sport as a tool to encourage peace. The preceding Zero Draft to the #action2015 document talked explicitly of sport’s role in fostering “inter-cultural understanding, tolerance, mutual respect and an ethic of global citizenship and shared responsibility” – something sport has been involved in at various levels from grassroots organisations to the mega sporting events such as the Olympic Games promoting the values and ideals of Olympism. Alongside a cautionary note that sport can also divide people as well as unite them, recognition of sport’s role on this issue is encouraging.

Sport, physical activity and a physically literate world
One area that was missing from the Zero Draft was the role of sport in ‘health and well-being’. Goal 3 of the SDGs is to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, yet the Zero paper did not incorporate sport and physical activity within this target. It seemed a world of ‘physical, mental and social well-being’ was envisaged, but without an attempt to tie physical well-being to any direct mention of a physically active world. The language used in the Zero Draft and the preceding ‘Road to dignity 2013’ report were both missing the key concept of 'physical literacy', and the recognition that encouraging a physically active world could have profound positive economic and social consequences. Whilst the final report is still missing the concept of 'physical literacy', the last minute inclusion of sport as an enabler of improved health is certainly welcome.

Moving forward 
Following the official adoption of these goals in September 2015, early 2016 will involve the development of indicators and discussions on how these goals will be monitored and evaluated. In addition, many funding streams will be directed according to the priorities outlined in the SDGs.

Once again, this discussion offers S&D a unique opportunity. Previously, access to sport and physical education has been recommended as an indicator to be adopted in the UN's human development index. Perhaps now is the time for us to make that case again?

Don’t miss part two in this series which will look more closely at sport's potential role in meeting the proposed goals to feature in the 147th e-Newsletter on 19 August.



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Mark James Johnson


Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 23:00