What do individuals and organisations need to keep in mind to successfully create policies and put them into action?


Because circumstances vary so dramatically across contexts, the way that sport and development policies are designed and implemented will also vary. Among other things, the process will depend on financial resources available, the current socio-economic challenges a country faces, the government’s previous involvement in sport and development and which departments are responsible for sports policy. 

There is therefore no ‘one size fits all’ process for developing a policy. Nonetheless, a number of key themes that are relevant to different contexts are worth highlighting. These should be considered by anyone wishing to successfully design and implement a sport and development policy.


Mobilise government support

The uptake of sport and development varies between countries but it is rarely a central feature of a country’s development work. Those designing a sport and development policy may encounter a general lack of awareness of sport’s potential, and sport is sometimes perceived as a luxury compared to other development needs. 

It is necessary to raise awareness of the benefits of sport and development. That means speaking to a range of government departments, using evidence and data to show how sport can be used to achieve a variety of aims. The most successful sport and development policies have the support of national leaders and senior officials, so it is also important to engage them in the process. 


Adopt participatory consultation processes

Involving all relevant stakeholders is key to the success of any policy. This will mean that relevant groups are supportive of the policy, and give them a platform to share knowledge, ensuring the policy meets defined needs and opportunities. These groups may include target beneficiary populations, local governments, schools, sports federations and NGOs. 

This communication should be ongoing, with platforms created to support continuous learning and improvement. It is important to invite beneficiary groups, partners and delivery agencies to provide regular feedback and ensure a policy meets its objective as it is rolled out. This should include knowledge exchange with sport and development practitioners and policymakers, while bearing in mind that information shared by other sectors can often be adapted to meet sport and development needs. 

Getting in touch with sport and development experts of other governments can also be invaluable and may even open up opportunities to coordinate on joint programmes or capacity building. 


Work with other departments

Sport is fairly unusual in the extent to which it relates to a wide range of policy areas. In different contexts, sectors responsible for culture, education, health, children and youth, international development or the economy (among others) may consider sport part of their remit. When designing a sport and development policy, it is important to contact as many government departments as possible.

Those responsible for making financial decisions should be included in discussions and departments that can most contribute to sport and development should be prioritised. Once these communications are underway, working groups or sub-committees on specific topics can establish ongoing communication and the sharing of relevant expertise. 


Prioritise policy coherence 

Target 17.14 of the Sustainable Development Goals is “Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development”. A range of different actors - public, private and civil society organisations - may be involved in sports programmes. Likewise, a number of different sectors, such as education, health and economic development, may have policy goals related to sport and development. Policy coherence is about alignment between these different levels, promoting collaboration and avoiding both unnecessary duplication and conflict between policies. 

The Commonwealth Secretariat defines policy coherence as having two dimensions:

  • Vertical: Alignment between global, international, national and sub-national policies. Policies should reinforce existing development objectives, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals (and, for sport, the Kazan Action Plan). They should acknowledge other international obligations, for example, those required by United Nations conventions. 
  • Horizontal: Alignment across different policy goals, sectors and stakeholders. They may include government ministries, sports federations, civil society organisations and the private sector. This may include for example alignment between a sports policy and public health policy (i.e. across sectors).


Achieving this degree of multi-level alignment is not easy. While there are many synergies between different actors, there are also diverging priorities. Successful policy coherence requires mutual understanding, flexibility and adaptation. When done successfully, it creates the best environment for sport to reach its potential. For more information on policy coherence:


Ensure good governance and sports integrity

Ensuring good governance and that the integrity of sport is preserved is an essential prerequisite for sport to contribute positively to development. This applies to all levels of sports, from grassroots and community sports programmes to the elite level and international mega-events. For that reason, ‘Protecting the integrity of sport’ is the third policy area featured in the Kazan Action Plan, which articulates five key themes within it:

  1. Safeguard athletes, spectators, workers and other groups involved. Athletes need safe spaces to train and compete, spectators need safe transport and areas to watch events and workers have a right to safety while building or working at stadiums.

  2. Protect children, youth and other vulnerable groups. Certain groups are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment. Strategies to prevent child labour, abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence are necessary conditions for healthy and sustainable sport for all.

  3. Foster good governance of sports organisations. This relates to organisations’ constitutions, administration and decision-making processes. Important features of good governance are effective accountability, transparent institutions, responsiveness and inclusiveness, as is challenging inequalities - women, in particular, are under-represented in leadership positions.

  4. Strengthen measures against manipulation of sports competitions. Competition manipulation (match fixing) remains a global concern. It reaches a range of participants, including athletes, referees and other officials. They need to be protected through legislation and law enforcement, and by building partnerships between public authorities, sports organisations and betting operators.

  5. Ensure an adequate anti-doping policy framework, its implementation and effective compliance measures. Measures such as education, prevention, detection, deterrence and research can help combat doping. Countries also must comply with their obligations to the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.


Related reading: 


Ensure sport and development policies and programmes incorporate best practice

It is important to consider the full range of options needed to make a policy successful. Success depends on incorporating best practice from both the sport sector and the development sector. It is, for example, essential to have clear objectives, goals, target populations, and indicators of success. Policies should also reinforce the positive values of sport, such as fairplay, teamwork, cooperation and respect. 

Consider the demographic of target groups. What are their cultural characteristics? How old are they? What is their gender? What are their material realities and specific needs? These questions need to be taken into account when designing a policy. Use information from consultations with relevant stakeholders to assess the impact of these factors, and include an assessment of barriers to sports participation. 


Ensure policies are inclusive

Socially and economically marginalised groups often face the biggest barriers to participation in sport but can benefit the most. Special attention should be given to women and girls, people with disabilities, migrants and refugees, indigenous people, unemployed and out-of-school young people and those living in poverty. People from marginalised groups tend to face stigma and discrimination from society. Sport can help combat this by creating shared experiences and emphasising what different groups of people have in common. 

Equal access to participation should be a basic standard, and it is important to ensure policies are designed with these groups’ needs in mind. One should draw on available best practice information, input from knowledgeable stakeholder organisations, and consultations with target group members to weigh these factors. Additionally it is important to identify and address barriers to participation. 


Additional factors to consider

The topics below all have crossovers with some of the information above, but are important enough that they are worth emphasising.


Human rights

Effective sports programmes can promote and protect human rights. This is particularly relevant for marginalised groups such as refugees, religious or cultural minorities and people affected by the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS. Sports activities can facilitate their inclusion by providing equitable access to sport, and serve as a platform for teaching participants about human rights. A well-managed sport sector - which itself respects human rights - is key to ensuring these benefits are met (see good governance, above). 

Furthermore, the fundamental human rights of everyone affected by or involved in physical education, physical activity and sport must be protected. A rights-based focus recognises and enforces the right of individuals to sport and play, as set out in relevant international treaties and national laws, and seeks to promote inclusion and prevent discrimination.


Gender mainstreaming

Sport can have physical, psychological and social advantages for all participants. However, women and girls face barriers that lead to their participation being lower than for boys and men. The European Institute for Gender Equality describes gender mainstreaming as the “integration of a gender equality perspective into every stage of development and implementation of a policy or programme.” This means designing policies that specifically have the needs of women and girls in mind, for example by making sure that activities take place in safe spaces and ensuring that activities are run by role models of different genders. 


Child safeguarding

Sport has the potential to have a positive and long-lasting effect on a child’s life. However, it is important to recognise that it can be a platform for both positive and negative experiences. Sports activities need to be managed well to avoid the risk of certain children being excluded or even abused. 

Policymakers have a responsibility to proactively combat these risks and protect children and young people from harm. Policies need to adopt child protection principles that are consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. There should also be appropriate screening processes for anyone involved in policy implementation at the programmatic level, such as teachers or coaches.



According to the World Health Organization, 1 billion people - 15% of the global population - live with disabilities. 80% live in developing countries. Challenges they face often include accessibility, stigma and a lack of supportive legislation - only 45 countries have laws protecting people with disabilities from discrimination.

Sport can change perceptions by highlighting skills and enabling people with and without disabilities to interact. It can improve people’s mental health and support people with disabilities in developing their self-esteem and skills that are useful for employment. Sports facilities, playing spaces and activities should be designed to ensure access for people with disabilities and that attention should start at the policy level. 


Further reading