Now or never: Sport and the 2030 Agenda
The URL has been copied
The URL has been copied
An excerpt from sportanddev’s contribution to a recent event on sport and the SDGs.

The Barça Foundation recently hosted a live chat event on Winning in Development: Sport and the 2030 Agenda. The event explored the relevance of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and included the launch of a report on this topic by the Barcelona Foundation.

sportanddev senior consultant Ben Sanders was part of a panel, which included Michael Armstrong from the Commonwealth Secretariat and Blanca de la Quintana from the Barça Foundation. A video of the event, which was moderated by Kely Nascimento-Deluca, is available here.

Below is an excerpt of sportanddev’s contribution to this event on the relevance of the SDGs. We also feature a second excerpt on how we can reimagine and reshape sport and development.

Why are the SDGs so relevant for sport and development?

“The SDGs form the framework for global development until 2030. They have been agreed upon by governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses and civil society actors, reflecting a global shared commitment. They provide a set of common goals and targets for sport for development actors to focus their work.

“Furthermore, sport is recognised as ‘an enabler of development’ within the 2030 Agenda, helping to promote the use of sport to contribute to the SDGs and other development priorities. Many states and other actors have already aligned their sport-based approaches to tackle the SDGs – from national governments such as Mauritius to non-profits and clubs that serve youth daily through sport.”

A common language and focus

“The SDGs provide a common language and shared focus for those using sport to promote development, as this work has often been poorly coordinated or operated in silos. This may help to unite the diverse range of actors across the sport for development field, the broader sport sector and the larger international development cooperation sector that may use sport for development.

“The SDGs can also contribute to more consistent and rigorous standards of programme design, delivery and implementation. This may help the sector move from the success of individual projects and organisations – in which some sport for development initiatives work for some people, in some places, sometimes – to broader collective impact at scale which can influence policy and investments. Increased alignment to the SDGs and improved measurement of sport’s contributions will allow stakeholders to better determine the value and viability of investments in sport for development. This will mean that sport is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ if it can show real impact in targeted areas and SDGs.

“I am pleased to announce that in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev) has created a dedicated section on our website on sport and the SDGs and a recent sub-section on measuring the contribution of sport to the SDGs, a topic which is guided by the Kazan Action Plan.

“We have also developed an open-access online global course on sport for sustainable development in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Australian government. The course contains guidance and resources on how to design, deliver and evaluate sport policies and programmes in order to contribute to the SDGs. We have had over 3,000 participants from over 160 countries join the first course run – and the course is still open and free of charge. It will run until the end of 2020, with an updated version to be launched in early 2021.”

Limitations and challenges

“However, we need to recognise there are limitations and challenges. Firstly, knowledge of the SDGs and other key policies is by no means universal. In a global survey conducted by sportanddev and the Japan Sport Council that reached 681 participants across all six continents, respondents exhibited limited awareness of key international sporting policies and plans. 29% of all respondents were unaware of all the following: 1) the SDGs and/or the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; 2) the Kazan Action Plan – the global policy framework for the sport sector; 3) the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA); and 4) the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace 2018-2020. Unsurprisingly, given this lack of awareness, most respondents reflected that these plans or policies do not majorly influence their work. So clearly, we need to recognise that there is a glaring gap between policy and practice that must be rectified.

“Further, while sport is recognised within the preamble of the 2030 Agenda, it is not mentioned in relation to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 169 targets or 231 indicators. Thus, there are no firm commitments to sport within the SDGs framework, potentially limiting policies and investments that use sport to contribute to the SDGs and national-level change. The Kazan Action Plan does identify 10 SDGs and 36 targets to which sport can effectively contribute – providing a targeted approach to achieving and measuring impact through sport-based approaches. The Barcelona report similarly identifies nine SDGs, relevant targets and areas of impact. These developments are welcome.”

Moving forward

“If we can better measure and evidence the value of sport-based approaches in specific areas such as health, education and crime prevention then perhaps sport may be more fully incorporated into the next set of global goals, prompting greater interest and investment in the use of sport for development. The Barcelona report showcased here, and the work of the Commonwealth, United Nations and other actors, have already helped to get the ball rolling. We still have a long road ahead.

“Two final points. Firstly, if we want to maximise the contribution of sport to the SDGs and other goals, we need to recognise that sport is not automatically positive. It may even cause harm. We need to let go of the ‘Great Sport Myth’ that assumes sport is a panacea. Instead, we need to ensure that sport policies and programmes are carefully and intentionally designed to enable positive outcomes.

“Lastly, we need to recognise the impact of COVID on the sport for development sector, something that was not foreseen in the SDGs or among sport organisations. It has profoundly affected the state of play, and while many sport for development organisations are doing fantastic work in the relief, response and recovery efforts, the crisis has exacerbated challenges facing sport and development. Sport may once again be relegated to a secondary need or concern, and resources are more limited than ever, raising the prospect of inequities increasing within sport for development and the broader sport sector, and reversing previous gains related to equity, access and inclusion. However, this also presents an opportunity to reimagine the role of sport and development.”


Senior Consultant