While preventing crime is often considered the responsibility of law enforcement, for efforts to succeed a much more comprehensive approach is required. This includes building strong partnerships with a wide diversity of sectors – including education, social, health, youth, civil society and sports – to tackle the root causes of violence and crime and promote positive youth development and wellbeing, with a focus on early prevention, and investing on young people and local communities.
The contribution of the sport sector in the context of holistic crime prevention approaches was explored further during the 30th session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ). During a side event held at the Commission, innovative sport-based interventions were showcased which underlined the role of sport in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and preventing violence and crime. The event provided a platform to distinguished sports actors to share their views and experiences on using sport for social development, building on sport values, and on multisectoral partnerships.
During the opening of the side event, Daniela Bas, Director for Inclusive Social Development at UNDESA pointed to the fundamental importance of sport vis-à-vis youth crime prevention. “It is increasingly recognized that physical activity and sport help to overcome social problems and promote social integration and tolerance,” she noted.
During the event, experts reiterated the power of sport in reaching out to young people, building important life skills, promoting values of justice, tolerance, respect and equality, and fostering inclusion and social cohesion. The key role as well as the responsibility of sports actors, including athletes and federations, in promoting sport values and building life champions was also underlined. Youri Djorkaeff, Chief Executive Officer of the FIFA Foundation, noted: “We believe that football contributes to social progress in general and the achievement of SDG 16 in particular. We are determined to raise the champions of tomorrow on and off the pitch” using the power of sport to “generate positive social change in the most vulnerable and isolated communities”.
Major sporting events, through the infrastructure they put in place, the diversity of people they bring together and the international attention they elicit, have enormous potential to promote the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Speaking to this, and leveraging the role of sport to this end, Khaled Al-Suwaidi, Senior Stakeholders Relations Manager from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of the State of Qatar highlighted how “sport can be a platform for cultural exchange and youth empowerment to enforce friendships and encourage relationship among nations.”
While sport organizations often focus on elite sport, there are also important initiatives which promote sport participation at the grassroots level. The International Olympic Committee, through the Olympic Movement, contributes to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced in accordance with Olympism and its values. Specifically, the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) uses positive sporting values as the context for, among others, teaching life skills, promoting healthy lifestyles and social inclusion, inspiring young people and local communities, as presented by Ms Konstantina Orologopoulou, International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) and Governance Coordinator, International Olympic Committee.
Through grassroots projects which mobilize communities and teach young people valuable skills and sport values such as teamwork and fair play, the sport sector can make an important contribution to peace and social development efforts. Stephan Fox, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA), referred in particular to the challenges that young people face, especially those living in unprivileged and marginalized communities. During the side event, he explained how IFMA works together with other sport communities as well as the criminal justice, education and youth sectors to develop sustained interventions helping young people across the globe, including through its “Sport is Your Gang” initiative.
Sport actors may also contribute to crime prevention efforts by generating safe public spaces for physical activity and for young people to positively interact and develop, especially in urban settings and vulnerable communities where such spaces are often lacking. This was emphasized by National Olympic Swimmer and Vice President of the National Olympic Committee and Sport Commissioner of Honduras, Ana Joselina Fortín. The visibility and influence of famous sports persons can also be leveraged to serve as positive role models for youth, inspiring discipline, resilience, and respect as building blocks for prosocial behaviour and steering young people away from violence.
Phiset Sa-Ardyen, Executive Director of the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), underscored that “Sport for youth violence and crime prevention, to be effective, should be integrated in holistic prevention strategies and programmes and supported by monitoring and evaluation”. In a very timely fashion, the side event took place in the middle of negotiations for a follow-up resolution to 2019’s General Assembly Resolution 74/170 on integrating sport into youth crime prevention and criminal justice strategies. Sponsored by Thailand, in this follow up resolution (E/CN.15/2021/L.7) adopted during the 30th session of the CCPCJ, Member States reiterated the valuable contribution of sport in crime prevention efforts and the importance of holistic crime prevention approaches, calling for cooperation and multisectoral partnerships.
It is clear that sport actors can be instrumental partners in crime prevention efforts. UNODC, building on the organization’s Youth Crime Prevention through Sport initiative and the Line Up Live Up programme, has partnered with several key actors in the sport area, engaging them as sport for development experts, in developing guidance tools and sharing good practices, or as implementing partners. At the national level, for example, joint activities have been designed and developed with sport actors, including National Olympic Committees and sports federations. Among others, this has included awareness-raising campaigns, e-learning sessions and the use of sport for youth engagement and violence prevention. At an international level, in September 2020, UNODC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), providing a framework for further cooperation between the two entities in the field of sport for youth development and for youth crime and drug use prevention and in ensuring sport is a safe place, safeguarding children and other participants from violence and abuse in sport settings. UNODC also has long-standing cooperation with the International Olympic Committee in addressing crime in and through sport building on Olympic Values.
UNODC remains committed to further strengthen and formalize partnerships with the sport sector, fostering educational and social programmes as well as positive youth and community engagement, to bring everyone a step closer to achieving peaceful, just and inclusive societies.