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U.N. Underlines Key Role for Youth and Sports on Development

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 2014 (IPS) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Nanjing, China, last week for the opening ceremony of the Second Youth Olympic Games.

With 500 days before the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), he stressed upon the key role young people hold in this challenge.

Addressing youth delegates Saturday, Ban said China has made remarkable progress towards the reduction of poverty and achieving development goals. He also said young people in China have the energy necessary to push the campaign further.

Sport, a universal language uniting groups and nations, offered another communication platform for his message.

“The United Nations strongly believes in the power of sport. Sport has a very unique, extraordinary power to bring people together and to drive social change”, Ban said.

“When we see countries competing together on playing fields, we know they can work together in negotiating rooms”.

The UN and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body for the Games, have a strong relationship: they share similar values and work towards similar targets.

As defined by the Olympic Charter, the IOC’s mission is “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society combined with the preservation of human dignity”.

Olympic values support an approach to sport on the basis of mutual understanding, no discrimination and a spirit of friendship, fair play and solidarity.

Enhancing peace and development and also bridging the gap between and among different ethnicities and religions and people and traditions”: this is the legacy Ban hopes these Games will leave behind.

Non-discrimination, sustainability, universality and solidarity are shared Olympic and United Nations principles.

On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee reported on the possibility of using sport and Olympic ideals to promote human rights, combat discrimination and racism, prevent conflict and build peace. The committee issued recommendations related to education and suggested ways to achieve these goals, with special attention to women inclusion.

Earlier this year, the former and now honorary President of the IOC Jacques Rogge of Belgium was nominated Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport: an important step to underline the role sport can play in physical rehabilitation and also in rebuilding the social network destroyed by conflict or natural disasters.

The IOC has observer status at the UN since 2009 and the two institutions run projects to promote peace, development, environment protection and gender equality.

Currently, UNAIDS runs an educational booth at these Youth Olympic Games on sexual health and HIV prevention.

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