How can sport be used to address challenges that refugees and other displaced people face?

Sport is found in almost every community across the globe. People everywhere play, follow or engage with it. In many cases sport is locally led, has well established local and national infrastructure and coordination, and provides an essential and trusted service.  

Sport has been present in displacement settings for as long as UNCHR has been working with refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and asylum seekers. For these people, all displaced by conflict, violence or persecution sport can be so much more than just a leisure activity, it can offer an opportunity to be included and protected – a chance to heal, develop and grow.  

By mid-2023, UNHCR estimated that 110 million people globally had been displaced from their homes, with 72% originating from just five countries, the Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Ukraine, Afghanistan and South Sudan. The majority of these are below the age of 18.

The Global Compact on Refugees, the international framework for more sustainable solutions to refugee situations, has outlined the need for broader societal action to address the challenges faced by displaced people and the communities that generously continue to host them. Sport can play a major part in this. Around the world, organisations are using sport as a tool for protection and inclusion, to enhance health and well-being, address inequalities, and work towards more cohesive societies.

Sport has the potential to break down cultural barriers, improve physical and mental well-being and create opportunities for more socially cohesive societies. However, simply delivering sports activities does not automatically mean the achievement of positive outcomes. Initiatives must be safe, intentionally designed and delivered – engaging both refugee and host communities – to exchange capacity and ensure that the learning is captured and translated into positive, sustainable change.

This page is meant for organisations who currently use, or aim to use, sport in their work with refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and hosting communities. It provides background on the topic, information and links to key resources, and guidance and advice on some of the key considerations when working with displaced people.


  • This section was developed in partnership with the Sport for Refugees Coalition.
  • For further information, please contact the Sport for Refugee Coalition co-conveners at: [email protected]
  • Photograph in the banner image at the top of this page by UNHCR.


This section was developed in partnership with the Sport for Refugees Coalition.

Co-convenors of the Sport for Refugees Coalition