Global Commitment

Sport has been recognised as a low cost, high impact tool in humanitarium, development and peace-building. “Sport can no longer be considered a luxury within any society, but is rather an important investment in the present and future, particularly in developing countries.” United Nations.

Millennium Development Goals

In September 2003 a report by the United Nations (UN), Sport for Development and Peace: Towards achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs), concluded that sport contributes to the pursuit of the MDGs.

Other Significant International Policy Instruments

The 1978 UNESCO International Charter of Physical Education and Sport specifies that every human being has a right to access physical education and that sport is essential for the full development of his or her personality.

  • The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child calls on all state parties actively to promote the right to play.
  • The African Union (AU) has drafted a sport policy framework for Africa (2008-2018), framing sport as a means of promoting economic and social development.


The best definition for sport and development is defined by United Nations Sport for Development and Peace.

Definition of ‘sport’

In a development context the definition of sport usually includes a broad and inclusive spectrum of activities suitable to people of all ages and abilities, with an emphasis on the positive values of sport. In 2003, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace defined sport, for the purposes of development, as ‘all forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organized or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.’ This definition has since then been accepted by many proponents of Sport for Development and Peace.

Sport as a fundamental right

The right of access to and participation in sport and play has long been recognised in a number of international conventions. In 1978, UNESCO described sport and physical education as a ‘fundamental right for all’. But until today, the right to play and sport has too often been ignored or disrespected.

Sport as a powerful tool

Sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. By its very nature, sport is about participation. It is about inclusion and citizenship. It stands for human values such as respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork and fairness, all of which are principles which are also contained in the Charter of the United Nations.


The United Nations system draws on the unique convening power of sport as a cross-cutting tool for:-

The mobilizing power of sport is often used as a ‘door-opener’ to convey crucial messages about HIV/AIDS, child’s rights, the environment, education, etc. Development and peace promotion: in grassroots projects sport is used in an extremely wide range of situations – whether as an integrated tool in short-term emergency humanitarian aid activities, or in long-term development cooperation projects, on a local, regional or global scale. Sport plays a significant role as a promoter of social integration and economic development in different geographical, cultural and political contexts. Sport is a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks, and to promote ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice.

According to the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group, sport is seen to have the most benefits in:

  • Individual development
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Promotion of gender equality
  • Social integration and the development of social capital
  • Peace building and conflict prevention/resolution
  • Post-disaster/trauma relief and normalisation of life
  • Economic development
  • Communication and social mobilisation.

From a development perspective, the focus is always on mass sport and not elite sport. Sport is used to reach out to those most in need including refugees, child soldiers, victims of conflict and natural catastrophes, the impoverished, persons with disabilities, victims of racism, stigmatization and discrimination, persons living with HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.