Tuesday was International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Every April 6, the world reflects on the fundamental role that sport and physical activity play, especially in economic and social development.
This movement began with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000-2015 and continues through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), planned for 2015 to 2030.
Sport oils social and humanitarian missions like education, social cohesion, health, reintegration, diplomacy and peace. A powerful tool to strengthen social ties and promote sustainable development and peace, it unifies faiths, cultures and languages.
Nelson Mandela remarked that sport has the power to change the world. To inspire and unite people in a way little else does. It can create hope amid despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers and discrimination.
Indeed, the Nobel laureate used the power of sport during the 1995 Rugby World Cup after the fall of Apartheid to unite South Africans. And in 2005, after leading his country to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, star forward Didier Drogba and his Côte d’Ivoire teammates successfully appealed to their countrymen to lay down arms in the midst of civil war.
Sport is not just a by-product of development, but one of the engines, lifting youth out of joblessness, underemployment, frustration and stunted growth.
In Jamaica, it is used to bring peace in volatile and crime-riddled communities. Many of its acclaimed sports heroes are from humble backgrounds.
In Kenya, Mathare Youth Sports Association pioneered the use of sports to engender broad socioeconomic development while also effecting positive social change. Besides, Moving the Goalpost (MTG) has combined football with peer education to empower adolescent girls in the coastal region.
Let us spare no effort in a tapping and maximising the power of sport to bring development and peace.