Practical considerations of using sport for peace and development
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Inclusion, adaptation and combining activities are among the measures organisations can adopt to improve impact, argues Nikita Bokserov.

This article was submitted as part of our call for articles on participatory approaches in sport for development. For more information and to find out how to submit, read the call for articles.

Nowadays, international organisations play a leading role in promoting the practical integration of peacemaking and sports into a single purposeful activity. They have contributed to the development of general knowledge in this field. Since their missions tend to be purposeful, they have often been a source of certain knowledge and experience, enjoying the trust of participants and stakeholders.


The growing interest in sports as a tool to promote development and peace is supported by the results of relevant academic research. There is already a great accumulation of research work that points to the possibilities of achieving positive and lasting development outcomes through sports [1]. However, the accumulated arsenal of scientific work and practices also reveals the shortcomings of this concept, foreseeing significant problems in the integration of sports in the service of peace [2].

The negative evaluation of sports is sometimes linked to the fact that it is already based on competition, and any competitive situation is judged to be extremely negative for the individual and social relations. Such situations are seen as harmful to cooperation, as facilitating the disintegration of personality and social relations, and as forming a vicious division of people into winners and losers [3]. It is also pointed out that competitions lead to the development of many negative qualities of personality, such as selfishness, aggressiveness and envy [4]. This comes from the fact that the athlete competes not only with himself, but also with his rivals, which means that the very essence of this action is already conflictual. Mainly, this applies to the game forms, where the score is maintained.


Nonetheless, today the field of sport for peace and development is developing rapidly thanks to a variety of organisations and activities at various levels. This leads to an overall improvement of the methods of such actions. Although sports cannot lead to peace in all cases, most organisations are already trying to observe certain measures that would increase the possibility of a positive outcome and reach of the programs. In the author's opinion, such measures may include:

1. Focus on problem issues

Activity should focus precisely on concrete goal, like building peace, but not on sport's superiority. The emphasis should be placed on the energy of the game and the power of team dynamics as well as collaborative efforts to achieve a goal that can be effective in changing the attitudes, behaviors, and relationships of participants.

2. Regularly scheduled activities

Sports activities need to be regular and sustained for a certain period, because one-time activities do not lead to a lasting impact. For long-term positive changes, it is necessary to involve participants in regular activities (at least once a week).

3. Adaptation

It is necessary to make sure at the beginning that the activity will not conflict with the local culture, context and problems of violence that are being solved, as well as it will be interesting to the participants. For example, hockey is unlikely to be appropriate for social programs in Africa. Special consideration should be given to the age of the target group. It is necessary to adopt programs that maximize joy, keeping in mind differences in gender, physical ability, and level of skills. For example, nowadays some organizations are changing some sports rules to more include more participants.

4. Better inclusion

It is especially important to pay attention to inclusive participation, because, for example, in some societies girls and women may not participate well in sports activities because of some cultural differences. Depending on the situation, this can be managed in diverse ways: separating activities between boys and girls to reduce discomfort; including more female volunteers in such programs to ensure the girls participation; arranging games with mixed participation more often. In the latter case, a goal by a girl can be counted as two goals instead of one.

5. A careful attitude towards competition

It is the competitive nature of sports that provides a strong public interest in it, but in programs focused on teamwork and interdependence, this must be adjusted slightly. The organization of a sports game between two rival societies-teams in a brief period of time-can lead to a negative result. Instead, mixed teams should be created, each with participants from different communities to promote interaction and teamwork between players.

6. Verify the readiness of the parties to interact

It is necessary to first spend time on in-group activities with each group individually before starting the programs. The activities should be organized after a minimum degree of intergroup trust, openness, and respect for each other have been achieved.

7. Combination of activities

It is hard for sports alone to have a significant impact on change, so it seems necessary to use the sports activities in combination with other events such as education, creation of spaces for dialogue and empowerment through socio-economic programs.


Therefore, for the further implementation of practices in this sector, it seems necessary to expand the number of studies on the implementation and evaluation of such projects. Although sports are equally characterized by a tendency of unity and a tendency of fragmentation, most actors today are already trying to implement certain measures that would increase the potential for positive outcomes of programs.

This practice will allow to adapt, modify, and transform practices and strategies in response to changing circumstances or external criticism. In this way, international cooperation will improve the knowledge about the utilization of sport for peace and development by providing a more chances to understand how to engage in such complex activity.


1. Sportanddev | The International Platform on Sport and Development. URL: https://www.sportanddev.org/

2. Sport as a means to ensure progress in international development. URL: https://www.un.org/ru/chronicle/article/21956

3. Arnold P. Competitive sport, winning and education // Journal of moral education, v. 18, N1, 1989. pp.17-21.

4. Sherif C. Intergroup Conflict and Competition: Social-Psychological Analysis // Sport in the Modern World - Chances and Problems: Papers, results, materials of scientific congress, Munich, August 21 to 25, 1972. - Berlin, Heidelberg, N.Y.: Springer Verlag, 1973. pp.60-69.

About the author

Nikita Bokserov is a researcher seeking ways to use sport as a tool for peace, development and the SDGs.


PyeongChang Youth Peace Ambassador
PyeongChang 2018 Legacy Foundation


Does not apply
All regions
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
4 – Quality education
Target Group
All target groups

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