SportWorks TOGETHER: Sustainable Development Goals – A review

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. The resolution which adopted the goals also recognized the role of sport. Physical and recreational activities – when used right – have a big part to play in reaching development objectives. This ranges from contributing to good health and wellbeing, to sports programmes becoming spaces to promote inclusion.

These ideas set the backdrop for our latest SportWorks TOGETHER, as we discussed how sport can successfully contribute to the SDGs. The conversations started with Maria Bray (Terre des hommes), Alberto Agra (Obstacle Sports Federation Asia Pacific), Paul Hunt (sportanddev), Nguyen Hoang Phuong (FFAV) and Karine Teow (ITTF Foundation), sharing their diverse range of experiences on how their work contributes to the SDGs.

In the Philippines and Vietnam, there are multiple grassroots projects which are promoting safe sports, social inclusion and ideas of gender equality. This is being done through cross-sector partnerships and encouraging the participation of a larger number of stakeholders. For a child rights agency like Terre des hommes, the focus is on inculcating sport into their programming on child protection and developing ways to enhance the positive influence of sport.

On the flipside, the ITTF Foundation is using its network to support humanitarian projects and increase access to sport itself, bringing a different perspective to the table. Networks such as ITTF need to connect, however, and this was one of the driving forces for the creation of sportanddev, an organisation that reckons that the field of sport for development itself is ever-changing and needs a platform to communicate and share knowledge. In the last 20 years, sportanddev has grown to become the primary place to find information and exchange ideas on the subject.

These highlights from our speakers were the perfect platform for the ensuing discussions in the breakout rooms. The breakout sessions – divided into two parts – discussed practices related to sports and SDGs, and the challenges associated with them. The discussions were extremely fruitful as a variety of opinions came together in one space.

Participants shared their own experiences with using sports, with examples shared from Australia, Norway and the Philippines, shedding a light on how these programmes are addressing local issues. Furthermore, there was agreement on the responsibility of professional sports and mega sporting events in addressing these goals. For example, there is still a long way to go for women’s sports, both in terms of equal pay and how they are portrayed in general. But the underlying sentiment was that sports programmes should be beneficial in a multitude of ways, with clear indicators and targets.

For the second half of our breakout sessions, the overarching topic was focussed on challenges and the way forward. Within this, a few key ideas emerged. First, the issue of funding needs to be addressed going forward. A lot of sport for development projects and organisations often struggle with funding, and there is a need to address that gap. Second, there needs to be more structure with proper monitoring and evaluation in place for all programmes. Improved assessment leads to improved programming. Lastly, every sports-based programme needs to have a strong basis. This can only happen if it is adapted to different contexts and is able to provide an actual “safe space” for everyone involved.

The SportWorks TOGETHER: Sustainable Development Goals was a platform for great discussions. But they don’t end here. We want this event to be taken further to the sporting community in Lausanne and beyond. We invite you to watch a recording of the event, and participate in our discussion forum to keep the conversation going and connect with other participants from the event.

We also invite you to stay tuned for our campaign around the International Day for Sport for Development and Peace on 06 April. A lot of exciting things coming up!

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