This section provides a gateway to the background information on what Sport & Development is all about and a history of its evolution including a timeline of some of the major milestones and events.

You can also read more about Sport's role in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and the annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, IDSDP.

What is Sport and Development?

‘Sport and development’ refers to the use of sport as a tool for development and peace.

Actors in sport, academia, private sector, non-profit and non-governmental organisations, government agencies, UN agencies and international organisations, the media, the general public as well as young people are increasingly interested in the potential of sport as a tool to reach personal, community, national and international development objectives. They are also interested in how sport can be used as a tool for addressing some of the challenges that arise from humanitarian crises and in conflict and post-conflict settings.

As sport becomes increasingly part of humanitarian and development work, as well as a part of the corporate social responsibility practices of some private sector actors, interested parties are anxious to explore the potential, as well as the limitations, of sport in their work.

For these very different actors to understand each other better, it becomes necessary to develop common definitions and frameworks for action in order to improve practice.

What is Sport?

In the area of Sport & Development, ‘sport’ is generally understood to include physical activities that go beyond competitive sports.


Incorporated into the definition of ‘sport’ are all forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction. These include: play; recreation; organized, casual or competitive sport; and indigenous sports or games.”

What is Development?

According to the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group, sport is seen to have the most benefits in:

  • Individual development
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Promotion of gender equality
  • Social integration and the development of social capital
  • Peace building and conflict prevention/resolution


Sport has been linked to the Millennium Development Goals but it has been widely recognised that sport alone will not be able to achieve all eight goals. In the past, sport has been most commonly linked to: eradication of poverty and extreme hunger; achieving universal primary education; responding to the psychosocial needs of victims of disasters and emergencies; promoting gender equality and empowering women; and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.


Sport and The Sustainable Development Goals

Click the link below for all you need to know about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and sport's role within it.

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S&D History

Sport is not a new element in development cooperation. It has been used in an ad hoc way to reach development-related objectives as far back as the 1920s. Click below for more information.

Featured Sports

Click below to find out more about individual sports and the characteristics that can be valuable to development programmes.


Since 2014, the S&D sector has been granted a UN recognised international observance day on 6 April. Click below to learn more about IDSDP, the 'International Day of Sport for Development and Peace'