Sport has historically played an important role in all societies, be it in the form of competitive sport, physical activity or play. It has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire and plays a significant role as a promoter of social integration and economic development in different geographical, cultural and political contexts. It is a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks, and to promote ideals of peace, fraternity, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice.
The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace promotes healthy lifestyles and focuses on giving as many people as possible access to sport. It is a day when some of the world’s leading sports’ people work together with communities to bring sporting opportunities to enrich lives, particularly youth. 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.
We, at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), believe that sport is a universal language that is a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing young people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
We recognise the growing contribution of sport to the realisation 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. WAY organised several events in the past, including a one day event in 2015 themed as ‘Youth Run for Peace and Sustainability’, which engaged youth and youth leaders from various countries, to stand in one accord to promote a sustainable peace for all.
On this day, we urge young people to recognise the social problems they face in their own communities and through supportive projects can work together to attempt to address them. Other sport for development and peace organisations should be encouraged to adopt a similarly localised approach in their work.
In this way, sports really can keep changing lives and contribute to nations’ sustainable development in the future.