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.

For example, within the United Nations, humanitarian aid workers have tapped the potential of sport as a means to improve the conditions of victims of conflict and natural disasters for many years.

The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Olympic Committee signed an agreement to collaborate as far back as 1922.

However, sport was largely underestimated as a major tool in humanitarian programmes and was rarely used in a systematic way.

More recently, there has been a fundamental shift. Today, more and more national and international development organisations are using sport to add to their approaches in local, regional and global development and peace promotion programmes. This is done in close cooperation with sports organisations most of the time.

Despite recent progress, the systematic use of sport and physical education for development is still in its early stages as many remain unconvinced of the impact sport can have on reaching development and humanitarian objectives.


Timeline of major developments in sport and development

Sport and development has emerged and continues to evolve because of major international policy developments. Here is a chronological list of some of the key milestones that have occured over the past few decades, putting sport as a tool for development on an international agenda.


  • 1978
  • 1997
    • Heads of State and Government of the European Commission focus special attention on sport during the Amsterdam treaty negotiations, during which it was stated that "the Conference emphasises the social significance of sport, in particular its role in forging identity and bringing people together".
  • 2001
    • UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appoints Mr. Adolf Ogi (former President of the Swiss Confederation) as the first Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace to enhance the network of relations between UN organisations and the sports sector.
  • 2002
    • The UN Secretary-General convenes the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace to review activities that involve sport within the UN system.
  • 2003
    • First International Conference on Sport & Development, Magglingen, Switzerland. The conference was the first international, high-level event on Sport & Development, involving participants from sports federations, governments, UN agencies, the media, athletes, business and civil society.
    • First Next Step conference: ‘International Expert Meeting on Development in and through Sport’, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. On a different level to the Magglingen conference series, the Next Step conference was established to target practitioners, mostly at the grassroots level, to share experiences and best practices in Sport & Development.
  • 2004
    • Roundtable forum: Harnessing the Power of Sport for Development and Peace, Athens, Greece. The roundtable forum was hosted during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and brought together political leaders and experts in development to discuss the potential of sport in achieving development goals. The roundtable forum laid the cornerstones for establishing the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDPIWG) creating a new policy framework for the use of sport for development and peace.
  • 2005
    • International Year of Sport and Physical Education (IYSPE) 2005 is proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
    • The Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDPIWG) is formed, with representatives from Ministers of Sport, Youth and Development from 15 countries, directors of UN agencies, and NGOs in the field of Sport for Development and Peace.
    • Second Magglingen Conference on Sport & Development, Magglingen, Switzerland. Read the Magglingen Call to Action
    • Second Next Step conference, Livingstone, Zambia.
    • Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (CABOS) established.
  • 2007
    • Third conference ‘Next Step’, Windhoek, Namibia. Inaugural meeting of the sportanddev Steering Board held at the Next Step conference.
    • European Commission publishes a White Paper on Sport  stating it will promote the use of sport as a tool for development in international development policy.
  • 2008
    • IOC and the UN agree on an expanded framework for action to use sport to reach the goals of the UN.
    • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appoints Mr. Wilfried Lemke as the new Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, after Mr. Adolf Ogi steps down.
    • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon establishes a trust fund on Sport for Development and Peace
  • 2009
    • First UN-IOC Forum on Sport for Development and Peace held in Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2010
    • sportanddev highlights Sport & Development at the 2010 FIFA World Cup
  • 2011
    • ​​​​​​​Second UN-IOC Forum on Sport, Peace and Development held in Geneva, Switzerland
    • Fourth conference 'Next Step' held in Trinidad & Tobago. 
  • 2012
    • ​​​​​​​Meeting of Experts (including sportanddev) in Sport & Development held at the Commonwealth Secretariat to develop guidelines on Sport for Development and Peace to be used throughout the Commonwealth. 
  • 2013
    • ​​​​​​​Third UN-IOC Forum on Sport for Peace and Development held in New York, USA. The forum closed with a call for a United Nations International Day of Sport and Physical Activity. 
    • The 67th United Nations General Assembly proclaims that 6 April is to be observed as the "International Day of Sport for Development and Peace". 
  • 2014
    • ​​​​​​​The fifth edition of the Next Step conference is held in New Delhi, India. Live streaming coverage was provided on sportanddev.
    • On 6 April 2014 the inaugural UN observed International Day of Sport for Development and Peace was celebrated globally. sportanddev provided coverage of the day.
    • Responding to requests from the S&D community for different language versions of sportanddev, a French language version of the site was launched to better service the fast growing French speaking S&D community.
    • A Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDP IWG) Thematic Meeting was held in Geneva, Switzerland on addressing Gender-Based Violence in and through sport.
  • 2015
    • ​​​​​​​Sport is recognised in the sustainable development goals as an important enabler of sustainable development.
    • Beyond Sport Summit hosts the launch of the Child Safeguards to make sport safer for children.
  • 2017
  • 2018


Please note that this list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather attempts to provide an overview of the major policy developments in Sport & Development.

​​​​​​​Image by Good Free Photos