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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach IOC
Olympic principles are United Nations principles UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 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. In 2015, in a historic moment for sport and the Olympic Movement, sport was officially recognised as an “important enabler” of sustainable development and included in the UN’s Agenda 2030.

In line with Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement unanimously adopted in December 2014, the IOC believes in the potential of sport to help achieve eleven of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) established by this UN Agenda 2030: Ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages (SDG 3); Ensure inclusive and quality education for all (SDG 4); Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (SDG 5); Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all (SDG 8); Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11); Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12); Take urgent actions to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG 13); Conserve and sustainably use marine resources and protect and promote the use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 14 & 15); and Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG 16).

Read here how sport contributes to these 11 SDGs.

In recent years, a few historical milestones significantly reinforced the partnership between the IOC and the UN, which dates back to 1922, when the IOC and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) established an institutional cooperation.

  • In 2009, the UN General Assembly granted the IOC Permanent Observer status. This decision enables the IOC to be directly involved in the UN Agenda and to attend UN General Assembly meetings where it can take the floor, thus providing the possibility to promote sport at a new level.
  • In April 2014, the UN and the IOC signed an 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 Jacques Rogge had been appointed as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport.
  • In November 2014, the UN formerly recognised the autonomy of the IOC and sport. The UN Resolution 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 historic milestone here.
  • In December 2016, sport was once again lauded by the UN for its power to spur social change. Learn more about this UN recognition here.

Read the full text of the Resolution here.

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 during the Olympic Games Rio 2016

Jacques Rogge with refugees kids
An IOC-UNHCR partnership on sport and education for youth refugees

The IOC continues to forge strong ties with UNHCR and contribute to a number of programmes for young people in refugee settlements, following the appointment of IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Youth Refugees and Sport in 2014.

Bringing hope to young refugees in Jordan

In October 2014, the Special Envoy visited the Azraq camp with the goal of raising awareness of the conditions of youth refugees and the impact of sport for their well-being. Run by the Jordanian authorities with the support of UNHCR and its humanitarian partners, this UN camp presently hosts over 10,000 shelters for some 28,000 refugees, of whom over 50 per cent are children and adolescents.

Following this visit, a multi-purpose sports ground was built in the Azraq camp, enabling the practice of a number of sports including football, basketball, volleyball, field hockey, tennis and handball. Activities on the ground now involve 2,000 young refugees per year, offering them a sense of “normality” and structure to their daily lives. In addition, the sports programmes are an important contribution to the community-building among the different ethnic groups.
Enabling youth sport activities in refugee camps in Ethiopia
In Gambella, Ethiopia, the IOC supported the set-up of youth and sport facilities in two refugee camps. The new spaces provide for indoor and outdoor games, meetings of youth associations, classroom activities and a focal point for all youth activities at the camps. There is a focus on recreational activities for adolescent girls as well as young refugees with impairments, sports role models and mentorship programmes to encourage community work, and prevention measures regarding adolescent sexual and reproductive health as well as gender-based violence. The camps host over 280,000 people who have sought refuge since violence flared in South Sudan in 2013.

Read the story here

Sport for social change in Columbia
As a result of internal conflict, Colombia has more than three million Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Together with UNHCR, the Colombian Olympic Committee and the Colombian Government, the IOC is currently developing a programme in Quibdó (Chocó) which uses sport as a tool to promote reconciliation among various communities. The project aims to engage with children and young people through sport and protect them from the threats of violence, drug consumption, forced recruitment, child labour and other hazards.

Read the full story here

Protecting young refugee adults through sport in Rwanda
In partnership with the UNHCR and the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee, the IOC supports a programme which seeks to better protect young refugees in the Gihembe, Kigeme, Kiziba, Mahama, Mugombwa and Nyabiheke refugee camps in Rwanda. By offering them sports activities, the project aims to contribute to their safety, avoid negative copying mechanisms, develop their resilience and help them acquire valuable life skills for their present and future. In addition, it sets out to strengthen their relationships with their peers, their parents and their community-at-large as an important protection mechanism as well as a way to ensure peaceful coexistence, enhance positive interactions with their host community, empower girls and engage in play. Finally, the programme aims to motivate refugee adolescents and young adults to shape their future and enhance their well-being. NGOs Plan International and Save the Children are among the implementing partners.

Read the story here

An emergency fund for refugee-focused programmes

In September 2015, in the spirit of sport doing its part to address the refugee crisis, particularly poignant in Europe at that time and, in parallel to the already existing IOC programmes lending support to refugees, the IOC, in collaboration with Olympic Solidarity, decided to establish a USD 2 million fund to encourage NOCs, in collaboration with local partners already active in this field, to promote integration through sports and other activities, with a view to improving the lives of refugees.

This initiative has drawn much interest from NOCs, which have applied in large numbers, mainly in Europe, and implemented various activities that have, in a general climate of growing hostility towards refugees, directly contributed to promoting tolerance and understanding through sport. Amongst them, the NOCs of Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have developed, with local partners, programmes of sports activities for refugees implemented through local sports clubs. These programmes have had a massive impact, as shown by the moving testimonials both of beneficiaries and volunteers involved in the project in the Netherlands. In Austria, the NOC has developed sports projects and programmes in refugee camps and homes through five of its Olympic Centres across the country. The NOC of Greece has set up four basketball courts within Elaionas, the biggest refugee camp in the heart of Athens, and helped the municipality of Lesvos to refurbish the local football stadium. Other NOCs, such as Iraq and Slovenia, have used the fund to provide immediate humanitarian assistance.

Through the momentum created by this solidarity effort, many networks and connections have been created, and these continue to generate positive initiatives and outcomes.

Refugee Olympic Team

With the help of the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and UNHCR, the IOC identified 10 refugee athletes living in forced displacement, and helped them through its Olympic Solidarity programmes to take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.  The Refugee Olympic Team – the first of its kind – acted as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and brought global attention to the worldwide refugee crisis. To learn more, click here.

Beyond the Olympic Games, the IOC continues to support these athletes day by day, to help them to build their future, while UNHCR also supports them to continue to convey this positive message of solidarity and hope through sport and advocate the cause of refugees.

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