African ministers emphasise sport's peace role

Ministers of Sport of the African Union met for the first time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 4-8 June and in their conference declaration committed to “use sport in promoting regional integration, visibility of Africa, employment creation, solidarity, peace, healthy lifestyles, and socio-economic development” and recognized “the need for the prioritization of sport in education curricula as all levels.” The ministers also cited the “supportive role of sport to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in African member states.”

The conference, held under the leadership of AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Advocate Bience Gawanas, served as a catalyst for the harmonization of sport programs and activities on a continental basis in pursuit of development and peace. It also provided the foundation for mainstreaming sport into the AU programs in the coming years. Gawanas said that sports have been successful in addressing many of Africa’s problems, such as HIV/AIDS education and awareness, and that African athletes have created a positive image of Africa through their achievements. She pointed to challenges, including the need to promote greater participation by women and girls and persons with disabilities and to improve physical education in schools.

The ministers’ declaration committed to promote Sport for All, “including African women in sport and sport for physically, socially, and mentally challenged Africans, and the inclusion of sport programmes for youth in areas of conflict, and locations for refugees and displaced people.”

The UN New York Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), requested UN agencies and country offices to provide information on sport-related activities in Africa. The United Nations Development Programme, for example, uses sport in programs to promote peace, integrate and mobilize youth, accelerate the attainment of the MDGs, and improve health and the quality of life. UNESCO is working to widen university-level education in physical education, as well as promote traditional sports and utilize football for educational purposes. UN-HABITAT is using sport in effort to help make cities and communities in Kenya safer. The International Labour Organization cooperates with FIFA and the Confédération Africaine de Football in a campaign to raise awareness about child labour, and with the International Olympic Committee on youth skills development and women-oriented programs.

FIFA and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have joined with the NGO Right to Play to organise football programs in refugee camps in Africa. UNICEF and FIFA have teamed up for the Unite for Children, Unite for Peace campaign, focusing on every child’s right to a peaceful world. The World Tourism Organization and FIFA have partnership to use tourism as a means of combating poverty and boosting development on the African continent. The World Health Organization, the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and FIFA have joined forces to address stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS with a cartoon booklet for young people called “HIV/AIDS – Stand Up for Human Rights”.