How can sport be used to address the challenges faced by refugees and other displaced people?

Sport is present in almost every community around the world. People everywhere play it, follow it, or engage with it. In many cases, sport is run locally, has well-established local and national infrastructure and coordination, and provides an essential and reliable service.

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

By mid-2023, UNHCR estimated that 110 million people worldwide had been displaced from their homes, 72% of whom came from just five countries: the Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the South Sudan. The majority of them are under 18 years old.

The Global Compact on Refugees, the international framework for more durable solutions to refugee situations, has highlighted the need for broader societal action to address the challenges faced by displaced people and the communities that continue to generously host them . Sport can play a major role in this. Across the world, organizations are using sport as a tool for protection and inclusion, to improve health and well-being, combat 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 offering sports activities does not automatically mean achieving positive results. Initiatives must be safe, intentionally designed and implemented – involving both refugees and host communities – to exchange capacities and ensure that learning is captured and translated into positive, lasting change.

This page is aimed at organizations currently using, or aiming to use, sport in their work with refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers and host communities. It provides background information on the subject, information and links to key resources, as well as guidance and advice on some of the key considerations when working with displaced people.


  • This section was developed in partnership with the Sport Coalition for Refugees.
  • For more information, please contact the co-organizers of the Sport for Refugee Coalition 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