Round two: Turn attention to structural and system level issues

Round two: Turn attention to structural and system level issues

First of all there must be a reflection on growing global inequality, enhanced global connectivity and the question of environmental sustainability...

How can sport and development claim space in the post-2015 discussions?

Three emergent issues influencing post-2015 discussions stand out as important reflection points for the S&D community. First, growing global inequality and the link with public and corporate governance systems. Second, enhanced global connectivity in particular in the context of the youth bulge in many regions. Lastly, environmental sustainability and the disproportionate impact of climate change on developing countries.

The prominence of these issues in the post-2015 debate points to the importance of the S&D community considering systemic and structural issues that impact on development. Traditionally much of the focus of the S&D community has been on the role sport-based approaches can play in contributing to positive development outcomes on an individual level.

Systems are central to challenges
This dynamic is exemplified by the number of S&D initiatives that claim impact in developing "life skills", raising awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues or promoting pathways into education or employment. The S&D community has placed less emphasis on examining how sport-based approaches can potentially raise awareness of structural inequities or impact on the systems that promote inequality and disadvantage (either positively or negatively). Even though these inequalities and systems play a central role in creating many of the development challenges S&D initiatives have aimed to address. Efforts focused on gender inequality and racism are notable exceptions. 

The post-2015 debate provides an opportune time for the S&D community to reflect on this dynamic. The S&D community promotes the "profile" of sport and sport’s ability to engage disparate individuals as key attributes of the sector. This raises the question as to whether this "profile" may be utilised more effectively to highlight inequality, promote good governance, advocate for sustainable practices and engage young people in decision making in a meaningful way? 

Wider engagement needed
This question is not asked with a suggestion that S&D alone will be able to "change" these structural and system level issues. Rather, the question is asked to consider if and how S&D can contribute more effectively. Linked to this question is the need for on-going reflection as to whether the work and approach of S&D, in some contexts and through some approaches, may inadvertently contribute to accentuating these issues. Whether through program design or the nature of the S&D community’s engagement with the wider sports community, government or corporate entities. In particular with partners whose priorities, whether advertently or inadvertently, appear to promote profit at the expense of equitable and sustainable development. 

These broader stakeholders will have a significant impact on how ‘sport’ is positioned post-2015, which in turn will impact on the efficacy of sport as a development tool. Consequently, the nature of the S&D community’s engagement with these stakeholders will be paramount and may need to encompass critical commentary and activism more substantially than is currently evident.

Structural and system level issues therefore emerge as key points of reference and reflection for S&D stakeholders in considering the community’s space in the post-2015 agenda. The outcomes of this reflection may well highlight that for S&D to feature more prominently the community will need to intensify advocacy and campaigning efforts focused on such big picture issues and consider these areas more thoroughly in program design and partnership work. To this end, intensifying collective action which champions equality, good governance, youth engagement and environmental sustainability - both within sport and more broadly – stand out as important agenda items for the S&D community.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]

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