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IOC and sports movement pledge support for refugees ahead of first-ever Global Refugee Forum

Refugee Olympic Team 2016 Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today announced that a movement consisting of over 70 partners has expressed its commitment to provide sporting opportunities to refugees.

Recognising the unique unifying power of sport, the IOC and the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) have worked closely with UNHCR to ensure that all the bodies involved in sport – from governments to National Olympic Committees, International Sports Federations, clubs, associations and civil society organisations – come together to renew and expand their commitment to building a better world for young refugees through sport.

Ahead of the first-ever Global Refugee Forum, which will take place in Geneva on 17 and 18 December, this unprecedented global initiative has made three important pledges, building on the work which each organisation has already done for refugees.

The pledges are as follows:

- To promote and ensure access for all refugees, without distinction of any kind, to safe and inclusive sporting facilities.

- To increase availability and access to organised sports and sport-based initiatives for refugee and hosting communities, actively considering age, gender, ability and other diversity needs.

- To promote and facilitate equal access to and the participation of refugees in sporting events and competitions at all levels.

“Through sport, the IOC has been supporting refugees around the world for many years, said the IOC President, Thomas Bach. “More recently, together with UNHCR, we created the Olympic Refuge Foundation. From this experience, we know that for children and young people uprooted by war or persecution, sport is much more than a leisure activity. It is an opportunity to be included and protected – a chance to heal, develop and grow.”

He continued: “The pledges that we are making today reaffirm the commitment from the sports movement and key partners – from governments to NGOs – to play their part in supporting refugees. I am pleased to see that over 70 organisations are already part of the sports coalition, and I hope that more organisations join us in the lead-up to the Global Refugee Forum.”

It is widely recognised that sports activities can be a positive tool for social cohesion and local inclusion, leading to better integration of refugees and other displaced people in their host communities. Sports programmes have proved to be a catalyst for empowering entire displaced communities, helping to strengthen and to foster peaceful relationships and co-existence with host communities.

The 25-year collaboration that the IOC has enjoyed with UNHCR has seen the implementation of sports projects for refugees in more than 45 countries. Emerging from this strong and long-standing partnership, the ORF was officially launched by the IOC during its Session in Lima in September 2017. The aim of the Foundation is to create safe, basic and accessible sports facilities in areas where there are refugees, a displaced migrant population and internally displaced people.

“We wholeheartedly welcome these important commitments. They clearly demonstrate that the sporting world stands with refugees,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

“This genuinely global and collective effort is crucial for promoting sports programmes to help young refugees build confidence, foster their physical and mental health, discover their potential and restore the prospect of a better future.”

The sports coalition is calling for more entities involved in sport to join the movement and support the three pledges. The current list of signatories can be found here.

The Global Compact on Refugees, the international framework for strengthened cooperation and solidarity with refugees and affected host countries, specifically recognises the contribution of sport and sporting entities in the protection and well-being of refugees and the internally displaced. The sporting commitments and other contributions will be highlighted at the forthcoming Global Refugee Forum.

In an endeavour to raise awareness of the magnitude of the refugee crisis, the IOC created the first Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The team inspired the world with the strength of their human spirit. The IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 will continue to send a symbol of hope for all refugees in the world.

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The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of 3.4 million US dollars goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.

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