skip to content
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 four 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); Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (SDG 5); Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11); and Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG 16).

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 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

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

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 new sports 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 supports the set-up of youth and sport facilities in two refugee camps. The new spaces will provide for indoor and outdoor games, meetings of youth associations, classroom activities and a focal point for all youth activities at the camps. There will be 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 250,000 people who have sought refuge since violence flared in South Sudan three years ago.

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 will use 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

An emergency fund for refugee-focused programmes

In September 2015, the IOC made available a USD 2 million emergency fund for programmes focused on refugees, driven by National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in the affected countries. The fund itself is made up of USD 1 million from the IOC and a further USD 1 million from Olympic Solidarity. 

Over 15 NOCs have already made use of this fund, including the Hellenic Olympic Committee, whose Refugees Support Programme helped build four basketball courts in the largest refugee centre in Athens. Details of some of the projects underway can be found here and here.

Refugee Olympic Team

The IOC has developed a programme for athletes living in forced displacement who have the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The IOC has already provided sports scholarships to a number of these refugee athletes. Further information on the creation of this Refugee Olympic Team is available here.

back to top Fr