365 days to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Two different sides of sport
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We look at two very different sides of sport for some of the world’s most marginalised children and youth. The three organisations behind the Sport for Protection Toolkit share the behind-the-scenes of how the Toolkit was developed, and it's importance in sport programmes for young refugees.

Today marks 1 year until the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Following the creation of the first IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, the IOC is again creating a Refugee Olympic Team for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. They will compete together under the Olympic Flag. The final composition of the Team will be announced in June next year.

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team is the most public facing collaboration of the 25-year long partnership between the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  While the Team has brought great visibility to refugee issues worldwide, the IOC and UNHCR have also brought organised and protective sports programmes to thousands of refugees and internally displaced children and youth, living in very challenging conditions around the world. To propel this effort forward, in 2017 the IOC established the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF), which is dedicated to achieving positive social outcomes for displaced young people through safe, organised sports projects worldwide.

In 2018, a new global framework was agreed upon for more predictable and equitable refugee responses. The Global Compact on Refugees places responsibility-sharing and solutions for refugees at the forefront. It has also made a renewed call for sports organisations to become more central in supporting the world’s young refugees. To strengthen this work UNHCR, the ORF and the Swiss child relief agency Terre des hommes (Tdh) have collaborated to demonstrate concretely how sport can achieve positive social outcomes for children and youth, and extend Olympic values beyond the Games through the Sport for Protection Toolkit: Programming with Young People in Forced Displacement Settings.

The Toolkit, released in October 2018, outlines the essential components needed for sport programmes to provide a safe, protective and supportive environment, and to address three of the key protection challenges that refugees and internally displaced (IDP) young people face on a daily basis. To achieve this it draws on the experiences of the three organisations, as well as individuals and organisations from the sport and humanitarian worlds; including humanitarian and sport for development practitioners, and refugees and IDP children and youth who have been the recipients of sports programmes. A global level advisory group of experts was also engaged to provide additional insight and perspective.

With a target group of young people aged 10 - 24 years, the toolkit centres around working to increase opportunities for and instances of social cohesion, social inclusion and psychosocial well-being through organised sports activities. Understanding that multiple factors often conspire to result in children and youth being the most under-served groups in refugee and IDP situations, the toolkit specifically emphasises the importance of active participation of all young people. 

A particular focus is placed on more marginalised groups and the opportunities they have with other young people to participate in the design and implementation of programmes meant for them, placing them at the centre of the project or programme. It works to bring together young refugees, IDP and host communities from different nationalities and ethnicities, as participants and leaders and to provide safe spaces to break down barriers. The toolkit also outlines the theoretical foundations of these programmes, providing a step-by-step guide for implementing projects, including how to develop understanding of the situation, planning and implementing the initiative, monitoring progress and building partnerships for sustainability.

The Toolkit acts as a practical framework that organisations can use, for example, to think about how to design a project, to understand different approaches and tools, to think about youth engagement in sports activities and if taken as a whole can even provide a good framework for those wishing to develop funding proposals. Generally speaking however, it is not meant to be read cover to cover but dipped into to find the appropriate resources and examples for each individual or organisation’s needs.   

All in all, it is a very positive example of the often unseen side of sport. While we will all be following the elite athletes of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team this time next year,  we must remember that these young people have all experienced the adversity of being forced to flee their homes, and can tell you first hand the about the transformational effect that non-elite sports participation has for other young people like them.

  • The next step is to find out which sections and how the toolkit is being used by sport and development partners. Please leave your comments on how the toolkit could be adapted for your context and work, and/or suggested amendments if you are already using the toolkit



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