Push states to develop better sport for development policies
I believe SDP has a good future but it depends on our current actions, plans, and strategies. Firstly, I am still not in favor of UNOSDP (United Nations Office on Sports for Development and Peace)’s closure. Professional sports organisations have their existing sports agendas and SDP (Sports for Development and Peace) campaign is not going to take a good space among other objectives.
Researchers have been putting questions on the effectiveness and impact of SDP but people like us have been trying to promote sports for development as it has the power to bring change. The problem is that SDP is not that developed as a field yet and we do not see a space in the policies and strategies. For example, as a global south country, Pakistan is on a different track. Over here we do not have a reflection of SDP in any policy at the national or local level. Even sports federations are not well aware of the soul of sports sociology. However, at the same time disadvantaged children/youth, immigrants, and traumatised people are looking for relief and that could happen through sports for development.
Moving on, SDP programs are implemented with limitations on resources and timeframes. We need to think about how can we make our social sports programmes more sustainable and how can we reach wider audiences as most programmes are working with a limited audience. I saw politicians giving speeches on 6April and displaying white cards but they are not aware of the ideology behind it; that is actually very unfortunate.
In the current pandemic situation, we have realised that maybe we are not moving parallel to digitalisation, as we need to develop ways in which we can promote sports non-traditionally. In addition, SDP needs an effective virtual platform as it has a great role to play in current COVID-19 situation. It is also a test of positive sports values such as integrity, solidarity, unity, etc. At the same time, we have witnessed online initiatives by sports athletes and SDP professionals where they are engaging people to relieve corona stress with physical activities and sports.
Because of lockdown, we have seen the increase in domestic violence so we need to apply the gender lens and SDP values to figure out the solution. It has raised a question for all of us: ‘How we are going to stop violence through SDP values when the air is full of stress and darkness?’ Maybe we all need to gather as one unit to use SDP values like solidarity etc to help each other as it's required at maximum.
I believe our future is always in our hands. Being a SDP professional and researcher, we need to push states to develop better sports for development policies to make the future brighter. The next ten years are very crucial as we have a target of SDGs that we are supposed to follow. Similarly, we need more resources and funding to increase the outreach but at the same time, quality and impact will also be our concerns. Now, it is the time to digitalise sports and we can do that by joining hands together.
Umair Rana is the executive director of Kafka Welfare Organization based in Lahore, Pakistan.