How can sport support displaced communities - a dialogue with the IOC President and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach took part today in a panel with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, to discuss the key contribution of the Olympic Movement and sports to help displaced people.
The dialogue was organised by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at the United Nations Office in Geneva to help foster inclusion, social cohesion and the well-being of refugees.
“The overarching mission of the IOC is to put sport at the service of humanity, a social mission firmly anchored in the Olympic Charter,” IOC President Bach said. “Our commitment to supporting refugees is based on our fundamental belief in the power of sport to make the world a better place. In sport, everyone is equal and this simple and yet universal principle is what gives sport the power to promote peace and understanding among all people.”
President Bach outlined the partnership with UNHCR which has been further strengthened since the IOC launched the Olympic Refuge Foundation just over a year ago. The Foundation brings together the many activities of the IOC to support refugees from grassroots support to the Refugee Olympic Team. High Commissioner Grandi is the Vice Chairman of the Foundation.
According to UNHCR, in a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, millions of people continue to flee from their home in search of safety, and a large portion are young people. More than half of the world’s refugee populations now lives in urban areas and has to face several issues, such as protection, social inclusion, access to education and economic opportunities.
In addition to IOC President Thomas Bach and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, the panel also included Yusra Mardini, Olympian and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. As a Syrian refugee, she shared a powerful testimony on how sport can help bring hope and resilience.
Our commitment to supporting refugees is based on our fundamental belief in the power of sport to make the world a better place. In sport, everyone is equal and this simple and yet universal principle is what gives sport the power to promote peace and understanding among all peopleThomas Bach IOC President
Mr Grandi commented: “Sport is a phenomenal tool that can contribute to refugee inclusion, give hope, improve well-being and bridge gaps between communities. Sports institutions can also play a considerable role in refugee responses. Our longstanding partnership with the International Olympic Committee and the more recent establishment of the Olympic Refuge Foundation are perfect examples. Through this partnership we are able to ensure better access to sports programmes for some of the world’s most disadvantaged children and youth”.
The IOC and UNHCR first began their cooperation in 1994. In a pledge to raise awareness of the magnitude of the refugee crisis, the IOC created the first Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. In October 2018, the IOC Session announced that this initiative will be continued and a team will take part in the next Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“By creating the Refugee Olympic Team, the IOC sent a message of hope and inclusion to all refugees in our world,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “The refugee athletes showed the world that we are all part of the same humanity. Their participation was a clear signal that refugees are our fellow human beings, that they are an enrichment to society just as they are an enrichment to our Olympic family.”
Through this partnership we are able to ensure better access to sports programmes for some of the world’s most disadvantaged children and youthFilippo Grandi UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Sport is also a means to protect forcibly displaced children and youth from risks such as abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence. The Olympic Refuge Foundation, founded in September 2017 by the IOC, aims to create safe and accessible sports facilities in areas where there are refugees, a displaced migrant population and internally displaced people. To this end, and in collaboration with the UNHCR and Terre des Hommes, the IOC recently launched a “Sport for Protection” toolkit, which will guide the work of the Foundation and be used by a broad cross-section of organisations and stakeholders to better understand and implement effective Sport for Protection programming.
Both the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migrants, which were adopted this month, recognise the value of sport as one of the key tools to foster integration and social inclusion. This recognition is another signal of the overall increasing acceptance and support for sport and physical activity as a meaningful and cost-effective way to achieve objectives relating to social development, integration, protection, health and peace promotion.