The United Nations has used sport in development programmes for decades. Since the year 2000, its promotion of sport has accelerated.


Sport is increasingly recognized as an important tool in helping the United Nations achieve its objectives, in particular the Millennium Development Goals. By including sport in development and peace programmes in a more systematic way, the United nations can make full use of this cost-efficient tool to help us create a better world.

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General

Sport has a crucial role to play in the efforts of the United Nations to improve the lives of people around the world. Sport builds bridges between individuals and across communities, providing a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of development and peace.

Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace


Harnessing the convening power of sport

The United Nations (UN) has been using sport as a tool in development cooperation and humanitarian aid efforts for decades. In recent years, UN programmes, funds and specialised agencies have increasingly recognized and harnessed the power of sport to achieve their objectives, particularly the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000.

The UN system draws on the unique convening power of sport as a tool for fundraising, advocacy and raising public awareness about the activities and objectives of the UN. Over 75 famous athletes have been appointed as ‘Ambassadors’ or ‘Spokespersons’ for the UN.


The Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace

In 2001, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General appointed Adolf Ogi, former President of the Swiss Confederation as the first ‘Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace’ in order to more systematically and coherently encourage the use of sport as a means to attain health, education, development and peace objectives. In April 2008, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Wilfried Lemke, of Germany, as Adolf Ogi’s successor. The Special Adviser is assisted by the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) in coordinating the efforts of the UN system to promote understanding and support internationally for sport as a powerful vehicle for positive social change.


Reports and Resolutions

In March 2003 a ‘UN Inter-Agency Task Force’ published a report, “Sport for Development and Peace: Towards Achieving the MDGs.” The report states that “the world of sport presents a natural partnership for the UN system” and that well-designed sport-based initiatives are practical and cost-effective tools to contribute to the achievement of the MDGs. 

Annually, since 2003, the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace. The Secretary-General reports each year to the General Assembly on the implementation of the resolution and on sport for development and peace activities at the national, regional and international levels.


The International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005

General Assembly Resolution 58/5 proclaimed 2005 as the ‘International Year of Sport and Physical Education’ (IYSPE 2005). In the framework of IYSPE 2005, the ‘Group of Friends on Sport for Development and Peace’ was created. This Group is an informal intergovernmental platform among Permanent Representatives to the UN in New York aiming to encourage UN Member States and the UN system to integrate sport actively into their policies and strategies.


Reaching out to Governments

In 2009, the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDP IWG) is to become an integral part of UNOSDP. The SDP IWG was originally launched in 2004. As of 2009, it will operate with a mandate to promote and support the adoption of policies and programmes by national governments to harness the potential of sport to contribute to the achievement of development objectives, specifically the MDGs, and peace.

Image by Niklas Jeromin