Practical considerations of using sport in peacebuilding

Practical considerations of using sport in peacebuilding

Sport programmes aiming to contribute to peace-building must take a number of aspects into account in the planning and/or implementing phases.

Sport as part of a holistic approach to peacebuilding

Sport programmes that focus on peace-building must ensure that their efforts are part of a wider holistic approach to peace-building and conflict transformation. It is recommended that sport programmes in conflict and post-conflict situations are implemented as part of comprehensive peace-building strategies.

Sensitivity

Sport is considered as a social construct i.e. socio-cultural norms and values dictate the ways in which sport and physical activity is viewed and is carried out in a community. Programmes that use sport must take into account the ways in which sport and physical activity is constructed in a given conflict context and should be implemented in ways that are sensitive to this context.

Accessibility

All groups must have access to the sports programme, which should aim to be as inclusive as possible. Efforts must be made to ensure that all groups have access to the infrastructure, including access to play spaces and equipment, and transportation to and from the play areas. Sports programmes must be appropriately timed and scheduled to cater to the target group. Sports programmes should be welcoming, accessible and social support made available for isolated groups.

Local vs. externally-driven processes

Experience warns against ‘parachuting’ workers, volunteers or even celebrities into conflict or post-conflict situations and advises that external actors involved in peace-building efforts are aware of their role in ‘insider-outsider’ power dynamics. Local community-based development approaches to peace-building through sport must be carried out in ways that allow the community to guide the process.

In this sense, the ‘do no harm’ approach is crucial to any undertaking that uses sport in peace-building – sport programmes are implemented in ways that enhance local peace-building efforts and do not operate in ways that undermine local resources and processes. Furthermore, the informed consent of participants and not just of their political representatives is essential to the success of a sports programme that aims to contribute effectively to peace-building.

Barriers to interaction

Sport programmes should ensure that the kind of interaction between participants encourages mutual acceptance and tolerance. Direct physical contact between participants has been cited as a tool to actively provoke the emergence of intensive relationships. Studies have shown that traditional games and dance were found to be effective in overcoming initial obstacles or barriers to interaction.

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