Coventry addresses UN on sport

09 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Coventry addresses UN on sport Kirsty Coventry

The Sunday News

NEW YORK ( — Addressing the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board (EB) member and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Sport Kirsty Coventry emphasised the vital role that sport can play as important enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular by promoting peace, fostering community development and preventing youth crime.

Speaking during the High-level Debate on “Crime Prevention and Sustainable Development through Sports”, held at the UN Headquarters in New York, USA, yesterday, Coventry highlighted the IOC’s commitment to leveraging sport as a powerful tool for achieving the UN SDGs.

“Sport has been recognised by this Assembly on numerous occasions as an important enabler for the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.

“On 365 days a year, sport contributes to building more peaceful and safer communities across the globe. The vision of the IOC is to build a better world through sport, and our IOC strategic roadmap, Olympic Agenda 2020+5, puts at its core the role of sport in delivering sustainable development objectives.

“I reiterate today the readiness of the Olympic Movement to be a strong partner in addressing our communities’ challenges through sport.”

With a view to the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024, she highlighted the peace mission of the Olympic Movement, with the athletes from the territories of 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team participating:

“They will set aside their differences in order to compete peacefully on the field of play. At the same time, they will live together under one roof in the Olympic Village. In this divisive and confrontational world, our peace mission is even more important, and all of our athletes are our role models for how we could live and thrive together.”

Coventry went on to stress the significance of sport at a community level in fostering peace and reducing crime, particularly among young people.

“Sport is a valuable low-cost, high-impact tool to accelerate the responses to our common international development agenda, and even more so for our youth,” she said.

“Locally-led and context-specific sport-based initiatives are contributing to improve the lives of young people and their communities. They are increasingly prioritised across social development policies including in crime prevention, where they prove effective to empower youth to become agents of positive change and reduce anti-social behaviours.”

The High-level Debate provided an opportunity for UN Members States and Observers of the General Assembly, UN entities and participating stakeholders to discuss the role of sport in promoting development and crime prevention strategies and programmes, including for youth, and to contribute to the SDGs.

“We increasingly see sport contributing to development, justice, and peace; fostering tolerance and respect; empowering women and youth; and promoting health, education, and social inclusion in line with the SDGs”, said Dennis Francis, President of the UN General Assembly.

“Sport does not only help channel the passions of youth into healthy competition, but it also instils a sense of community. That is why Member States must consider sport as an integral component of prevention policies and programmes for youth – increasing their meaningful and inclusive participation,” Francis added.

Focus on sport-based initiatives to tackle youth crime

The High-level Debate included an interactive panel discussion on “Youth Crime Prevention through Sport Initiatives”, which also featured representatives from within the Olympic Movement, including Layana de Souza, an IOC Young Leader from Brazil and founder of “Changing the Score”, and Domenico De Maio, Education and Culture Director of the Milano Cortina 2026 Organising Committee.

With the support of the IOC Young Leaders programme, De Souza launched “Changing the Score” to offer growth opportunities and improve the quality of life of young people in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela. The initiative provides free basketball classes and extracurricular activities for boys and girls in Rocinha, in the hope that the skills the learn on the court can be transferred into everyday life, helping to tackle the issues of crime and violence that are prevalent within the favela.

The panel discussion provided a further opportunity to share best practices from different regions, highlighting how sport can play a critical role in empowering young people and community members to become active agents of positive change and support crime prevention efforts.

The importance of partnerships to maximise impact

Following the High-level Debate, a side event was also held focusing on “Harnessing Sports for Crime Prevention through Partnerships”. Organised with the Permanent Missions of Italy, Jamaica, Monaco and Qatar to the UN in New York, the event included further remarks by Coventry and Francis, plus the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The IOC and UNODC were co-sponsors for the side event.

The event focused on how tailored sport-based interventions can effectively reinforce and complement crime prevention strategies and programmes, helping to increase their social impact on young people, communities, and wider society.

“Sport-based initiatives do work, and to maximise impact and reach, we need to adopt a systemic approach”, said Coventry, explaining the importance of co-investments, building the capacity of people and institutions, and learning exchange. “This approach is central to the Olympism365 strategy, the IOC’s strategy that governs our approach to strengthening the role of sport for sustainable development.”

The side event provided an opportunity to highlight the “Sport against Crime: Outreach, Resilience, Empowerment of at-risk youth” (SC:ORE) project – a joint initiative between the IOC and UNODC that aims to support the effective use of sport in preventing violence and crime, while enhancing the role of sport and the sports sector in building peaceful and safe communities.

“By rallying public authorities and civil society organisations in the criminal justice sector, the UN system, development banks and businesses, as well as national and regional sports entities and major sports events organisers, to jointly invest in sports-based interventions and policies, we can generate a much greater impact on criminal behaviour than enforcement alone, and can improve a broad range of health, education and social outcomes,” Coventry concluded.

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