Sam Fellows is a Solicitor at Simpson Grierson in Auckland. He holds a Bachelor of Laws with Honours, a Bachelor of Sport and Leisure Studies and a Master’s Degree in Sport and Leisure Studies. During his law studies much of his interest related to human rights and international law, including an examination of the human rights of children in sport. Sam's Master’s thesis looked at the use of external providers of health and physical education programmes in Aotearoa primary schools and the way these type of programmes could be used more effectively to teach the curriculum and achieve better educational outcomes. Sam is passionate about sport for development and peace. He pursues this passion by working with sport organisations on programmes at the grassroots level and has attended international conferences in the area and related areas.
April 6 is the United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a chance to recognise the huge potential sport has to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals, to foster peace and play a role in development generally. Sport for Development and Peace is something is close to my heart and that I believe is one of the most if the most important ways to bring people together and promote peace, development and understanding across the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.
What is Sport?
This may seem obvious, however the definition the UN and other development bodies commonly use when discussing Sport for Development and Peace is a much broader than the way we commonly think 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.”
What is Sport for Development and Peace?
Sport in its broad definition (play, recreation, dance, organized or competitive sport, indigenous sports and games) has always been an important part of societies, whether it is a way to train hunters, tell stories, compete with others or have fun. Sport and most notably the play aspect is often the first way we all learn about the world around us and the way we interact with others.
Sport for Development and Peace recognises that sport is an effective tool for development. Sport in the broad definition is one of the few areas that has an amazing power to inspire people, bring people together, and develop an individual and collective identity. Sport teaches respect for others, acceptance of rules, teamwork, fairness, an understanding for one’s body in space and fun.
The UN system and in particular the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) uses sport in two main ways. Firstly as a tool for fundraising, advocacy, mobilization and raising public awareness. This involves using high profile athletes and sports teams to promote messages. For example the ICC partnering with UNICEF for the recent Cricket World Cup to get players to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. Sport due to its strong appeal is seen as a way for these messages to get in the door so they can be explored further.
The second main way sport is used is in development and peace promotion projects at a grassroots level. These projects involve getting individuals, often young people, involved in sports events and activities. This can be in an emergency situation to take people minds of the situation, give the individuals something to do and meet others or long term projects to promote interaction, health or any other goal. An example of this was using cricket as an activity for those in refugee camps displaced by conflict in Afghanistan, as a way to get to know each other and have something to do. Many of those that represented Afghanistan at the recent Cricket World cup in Australia and New Zealand first learnt how to play cricket in these camps.
Youth in Sport for Development and Peace
Youth have an important role as both recipients and deliverers of Sport for Development and Peace projects. As mentioned above many of the projects are aimed at young people. This is because any initiatives are often more effective when aimed at young people and more importantly young people are disproportionately affected by conflict or any other societal difficulties. In many of these instances, young people miss out on opportunities to just be kids and play and have fun. This is where I believe Sport for Development and Peace is most useful and effective.
Youth also have an important role in delivering and promoting Sport for Development and Peace in both formal and informal roles. Young people are able to relate to the recipients of these types of programmes more easily and have the passion and energy required to deliver these types of programmes. They also play an important informal leadership role whether it is as a participant encouraging others to get involved or finding individuals who would benefit from these types of initiatives.
Importance of the Commonwealth in Sport for Development and Peace
The Commonwealth advocates for sport to be used as a vehicle for peace and development and assists member nations to develop policies and action plans that link sport to outcomes in areas such as health, education, gender equality and social cohesion, at community and national level. They also convene a biennial Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting for development of policy and sharing of good practice. In addition, there is a Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Working Group. This group is supported by the Head of Sport for Development and Peace, a Commonwealth employee. This groups aims to be “The leading voice for youth in the Commonwealth towards promoting best practices towards sport for development and peace in their respective societies – by targeting young people and policy makers.”
Sport for Development and Peace is important in the Commonwealth and in particular the developing nations of the commonwealth as there are a high proportion of young people in these nations, when compared to other nations. Due to this high number of young people, many do not have the opportunities to participate in play and games due to having to take on adult responsibilities. This means that they are missing out on many of the important learning opportunities that come from sport.
Sport for Development and Peace is also particularly effective in Commonwealth nations given the high interest in sport as can be seen by the strong following and participation in the Commonwealth Games and sports such as football, rugby, cricket and netball. These sports provide an effective tool to promote many development messages in a way that young people in the commonwealth can relate to.
Another effective and underused aspect of Sport for Development and Peace in Commonwealth nation is to promote traditional knowledge and practices within indigenous peoples. Many of these skills have been lost or weakened due to the effects of colonisation and modernisation. This has lead in some instances to a feeling of disconnect with many youth from indigenous societies with theses societies and the wider societies that exist in their nations. Sport and in particular, the indigenous sports, dances and games can be effective in building a sense of belonging and passing on knowledge of these societies. This traditional knowledge can also be effective in thinking about traditional practices of eating and protecting the environment that can lead to better health outcomes for indigenous people. Indigenous sports, dancing and games are also effective in allowing individuals from outside these groups to get a better insight into these societies and participate in these activities respectfully.
If you want to explore Sport for Development and Peace further please have a look at the UNOSDP, Commonwealth and Olympic Sport for Development websites.