Background Sport as a tool for development

The 2030 Agenda highlights the importance of sport as a means of paving the way for sustainable development: “We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”

Accordingly, sport is being used successfully in many fields of development cooperation, for instance in connection with gender equality, promoting health, (vocational) training and supporting young people, preventing violence, trauma counselling, promoting peace and good governance, disability inclusion, economic development, sustainable environmental protection, displacement and migration.

Suitable activities on the ground include all different kinds of physical exercise and games, especially grassroots and team sports that do not require expensive gear or equipment, for example football, volleyball, frisbee, netball or basketball. When seeking suitable types of sport, it is crucial to not only consider the costs but also how they might be used in practice and their popularity in the individual country.

Mass sporting events like football World Cups, Olympic and Paralympic Games or World Games can also steer public attention towards development topics. They interest and motivate people like few other events and can be linked to the issue of sustainability. This helps improve the public visibility of topics like the resource-saving organisation of major sporting events, climate action, fair procurement, sustainable textiles supply chains for sports equipment and social commitment.

The United Nations has declared 6 April the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

Sport as a fundamental right for all

In 1978, UNESCO adopted the International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport, revised in 2015. Article 1 stipulates that “Every human being has a fundamental right to physical education, physical activity and sport (...). The freedom to develop physical, psychological and social well-being and capabilities through these activities must be supported by all governmental, sport and educational institutions.”

However, the right of children and young people in particular to exercise, games and sport is still too often ignored or violated. In many developing countries, sport is not even on the curriculum, or there is a lack of qualified teachers and sports facilities. In addition, more than 240 million children and young people are still not able to go to school at all. That is why German development policy is committed to achieving better health, education and work opportunities for the youngest members of society through sport for development, and to fostering social cohesion and strengthening the participation of girls and young women.

As at: 18/01/2023