International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach today attended the first-ever Global Refugee Forum, organised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees, the Global Refugee Forum was created as an opportunity to translate the principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action. The Forum, which was attended by representatives of the 193 UN Member States, served as a platform for impactful pledges and contributions and the exchange of best practices.
Speaking at the event, President Bach praised the creation of a wide-ranging “Sport Coalition for Refugees” to secure access to sport. The initiative was launched by the IOC and UNHCR.
“This is the first time that such a wide-ranging coalition of partners is coming together specifically around sport, illustrating the unifying power of sport,” said President Bach.
He added: “The IOC has been supporting refugees through sport for many years. For the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we created the IOC Refugee Olympic Team and, to broaden our engagement, we later launched the Olympic Refuge Foundation. In all our efforts, we are working closely with UNHCR.”
“From this experience, we know that, for children and young people uprooted by war or persecution, sport is much more than a leisure activity. For refugees, sport is an opportunity to be included and protected – a chance to heal, develop and grow.”
Over 80 sports organisations, NGOs and governments came together at the event to express their commitment to facilitate sports opportunities for refugees. Specifically, three pledges have been announced:
- 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.
President Bach added a fourth pledge on behalf of the IOC: “We will continue to give hope to refugees around the world and raise awareness about the magnitude of the global refugee crisis with the participation of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
On the sidelines of the Forum, the President also attended the official UN lunch, where he met the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, and a number of Ministers from different countries.