Cooperation with the UN


“Olympic principles are United Nations principles”
            – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the 2009 Olympic Congress in Copenhagen
IOC and UN collaboration: Tapping the full potential of sport

The United Nations (UN) has long recognised the contribution of sport for development and peace, and collaboration between the IOC and the UN has played a central role in spreading the acceptance of sport as a means to promote internationally agreed development goals.  

The sports sector, which comprises millions of people, practitioners and professionals of all ages across the five continents, has contributed significantly to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is looking forward to accelerating its efforts within the post-2015 Development Agenda. The IOC recognises that this Agenda is a historical opportunity to ensure that sport and physical activity are integrated as a meaningful and cost-effective tool to achieve the sustainable development goals.

In 2014, a couple of historical milestones significantly reinforced the partnership between the IOC and the UN, which dates back to 1922. In April 2014, the UN and the IOC signed a historic agreement aimed at strengthening collaboration between the two organisations at the highest level. The agreement underlined that the IOC and the UN “share the same values of contributing to a better and peaceful world through sport.”

Learn more about the IOC and UN agreement here

It was then also announced that IOC Honorary President Rogge had been appointed as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport. The overall objective of the role is to support the UN Secretary-General on raising the profile of the youth refugee situation and the impact of sport on education, and physical and mental health, as well as promoting programmes that allow safe, adapted, inclusive and sustainable sport and physical activities for youth refugees.

In November 2014, the UN also formerly recognised the autonomy of the IOC and sport. The Resolution adopted by consensus at the 69th regular session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York acknowledges “sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace”, and highlights the important role of the IOC and the Olympic Movement in achieving these goals. 

Learn more about this UN recognition here

Read the full text of the Resolution here

Partners since 1922

The roots of IOC-UN cooperation go back to 1922, when the IOC signed a collaborative agreement with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to make sport more accessible to workers. When the ILO became a specialised agency of the UN after the latter’s creation in 1945, the pioneering partnership expanded to other UN agencies, funds and programmes. Over the following decades, a series of actions and events helped raise the profile of the role of sport as an instrument for social change and the IOC signed Memoranda of Understanding with a range of UN agencies and programmes.

Using sport to build a better world

In 1993, the UN General Assembly approved a Resolution that further solidified IOC-UN cooperation with the decision to revive the Olympic Truce, by adopting a Resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal,” which calls upon Member States, before every edition of the Games, to observe the Olympic Truce and to cooperate with the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict during and beyond the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Read about Ban Ki-moon calling for all warring parties worldwide to observe the Olympic Truce at Sochi 2014

In 2001, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed the first Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, another landmark event in the acknowledgment of sport’s contribution to positive societal change.

Learn more about the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace

Action on the ground: Serving humankind

This long history of collaboration between the IOC and the UN led to the General Assembly’s decision in 2009 to grant the IOC Permanent Observer status.

The value of sport as an instrument for development and peace is also measured by what happens on the ground.

Learn more about sports-related community projects here

The high-level meeting of the General Assembly on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in 2011 offered a strong affirmation of sport’s contribution to public health. The World Health Organisation reports that 38 million, or 68 per cent, of the 56 million deaths worldwide in 2012 were due to NCDs. If current trends continue, the annual death rates from NCDs will soar to 55 million by 2030. Nearly half of NCD-related deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases, followed by cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Engaging in sport and regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to avoid those ailments.