IOC plays key role at first ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)
The IOC has taken part in the first ever United Nations Environment Assembly Session held in Nairobi, Kenya.
The IOC contribution follows the recent signing of a top level agreement between the President of the IOC and the UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, which is already leading to closer cooperation across a range of shared projects.
The meeting, held under the overarching theme of “Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda”, saw HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Olympian, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and Chair of the IOC Commission on Sport and Environment, making a keynote speech.
Also at the meeting was IOC member and three-time Olympic canoeing champion Tony Estanguet. The landmark meeting was a unique opportunity for the IOC to demonstrate that, after 20 years of partnership, it remains a dedicated partner of UNEP.
Taking place from 23 to 27 June, with over 1,000 participants and 163 UN Member States attending, including ministers, government delegates and representatives from other major groups and stakeholders, this event is an important occasion for the IOC to highlight how the sporting community can adopt, and has adopted more sustainable practices over the last few decades. It also underlines that the IOC remains committed to working with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other stakeholders to ensure that sport plays a significant role in advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The International Olympic Committee is ready to use the convening power of sport as a means to reach out and maximise the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals”, HSH Prince Albert II stated in his address. “Specifically, this relates to using sport to build inclusive, safe and sustainable cities with an accent on recreation, sport and play areas; promoting physical activity and a healthy life for all; and providing equitable and life-long learning opportunities though quality physical education.”
He added: “In addition, sport can be a valuable cross-cutting tool to promote gender equality and empower girls and women; serve as a tool to prevent conflict and build peace; and function as an important player to rally communities, engage young people and bridge cultural divides in a spirit of non-violence, mutual respect and friendship. […] Our discussions here will assist with these efforts to help to bring us closer ‘towards a life of dignity for all’.”
UNEA follows the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, held in Brazil in June 2012, which established UNEP as the leading global environmental authority. With the aim of strengthening global cooperation in protecting and preserving the natural resources of the planet, this Session sets out to inform on-going discussions on the formulation of set targets and indicators that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to which the IOC has pledged its support.
Sustainability also features as one of the themes being carefully studied in the framework of Olympic Agenda 2020, a roadmap that will shape the future of the Olympic Movement. The Olympic Agenda 2020 discussions were initiated by IOC President Thomas Bach following his election in September last year. A working group led by Chair of the IOC Commission on Sport and Environment, HSH Prince Albert II, has been set up with the aim of making recommendations for final approval at an IOC Session, scheduled for December this year.
Environmental protection integral to Olympism
A degraded environment can have a negative impact on sport, on the Olympic Games and, most importantly, on the athletes. Sport then presents broad opportunities to promote environmental awareness, capacity building and far-reaching action for environmental, social and economic development across society. Consequently, environmental responsibility has become an integral pillar of Olympism, along with sport and culture.
In-keeping with a recommendation by the Centennial Olympic Congress in 1994, the IOC amended the Olympic Charter in 1996 to stress the need to “encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly”. It also signed a cooperation agreement with UNEP to develop joint initiatives in the field of sport and the environment.