International Day for Peace: how sport can be an enabler for sustainable development

IOC

September 22, 2023

On the International Day for Peace, Auvita Rapilla, IOC Member and Chair of the Olympism365 Commission, discusses how the Olympism365 strategy can support the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contribute to creating safer and more peaceful communities in the Pacific and beyond.

In pursuit of the #GlobalGoals, the IOC has a unique platform to contribute to positive change in different communities. How does the IOC view its role in contributing to creating safer and more peaceful communities?

First and foremost, it is important to understand that building safer and more peaceful communities is interlinked with inclusive sustainable development, and that these are highly complex issues. However, the IOC believes that sport and Olympism have a positive role to play in that endeavour. Our commitment to this is brought to life through the Olympism365 strategy, which is our approach to strengthening the role of sport as an important enabler for the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16 on promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies. The goal is to connect and support social impact initiatives around the globe in order to harness the transformative potential of sport and Olympism to help change lives, communities and society for the better.

At the IOC and for National Olympic Committees (NOCs), our work is often about supporting athletes and preparing for the Olympic Games, but what is truly satisfying and equally as important is seeing how sport can make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis. Olympism365 is about connecting the opportunities that we have across the Olympic Movement, to make that impact across a wide range of communities – far beyond those hosting the Games.

What are some of the examples of successful collaborations that the Olympic Movement has engaged in to promote just, peaceful and inclusive communities, the focus of Goal 16?

One that’s close to home for me in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the Kicks 4 Kokoda programme, which aims to support young people in overcoming key challenges they face in their communities. Statistics from our Ministry for Community Development indicate that over 50 per cent of women have experienced gender-based violence. So a target of zero tolerance to violence against women and children is a priority for PNG.

Recognising this challenge, we (the PNG National Olympic Committee) have partnered with the PNG Kokoda Track Foundation and Team Up, the Australian Government’s sport for development programme on this initiative. It’s been a really successful programme since we established the partnership in 2021. Our Olympians and elite athletes, alongside community volunteers, are trained as coaches and peer leaders, then teamed up with community health workers, to understand the mindset of local young people and inspire them to engage with their own communities in more inclusive and gender equitable ways, and help them access gender-based violence services. Sport and the Olympic values become a hook and a safe space to support the young people in these communities in a way that traditional service provision is unable to do.

How can collaboration like this enhance the impact of sport and Olympism in different communities across the globe, especially in creating safer and more peaceful communities?

We see violence and community safety issues manifest differently in different contexts, with more and more communities experiencing violent conflict, but also an unacceptably high number of people suffering from crime and domestic violence. This includes reporting from the World Health Organization (WHO) that one out of two children suffer some form of violence each year. In response, through Olympism365, the IOC is increasing its cooperation with the criminal justice sector to strengthen the role of sport in youth crime prevention.

A good example is our work with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on the SC:ORE (Sport against Crime: Outreach, Resilience, Empowerment) initiative, focused on helping to prevent and combat youth violence and crime through sports-based learning and skills training. This approach brings together the experience and expertise of leaders in youth crime prevention with the assets of the Olympic and sports movement. An important point to note is that, as well as delivering concrete projects, this initiative also has a focus on building the capacity of institutions – including those outside the sports movement – and strengthening public policies and investment that is focused on using sport in youth crime prevention. This approach is mirrored across Olympism365. It is key to enhancing the scale, impact and sustainability of the IOC’s collaborations to strengthen the role of sport as an enabler for sustainable development.

Sport has a unique power to unite people from different backgrounds and cultures. How does the IOC, through Olympism365, leverage this potential to foster dialogue and collaboration among communities?

I have this strong belief that, with the power of sport, we can make a difference in our communities, and I think that not only can every sports organisation throughout the Olympic Movement make use of that opportunity, but also community groups, governments at all levels and businesses that want to support positive social change.

A great example is the work by IOC Young Leader Sophia Papamichalopoulos, who uses sailing to bring together people from both the Greek- and Turkish-speaking sides of Cyprus to foster dialogue and understanding. Again, in this instance, sport provides an entry point and space that other approaches cannot. Contributing to building safer and more peaceful communities is a priority of Olympism365, and Sophia’s work is one example of how sport is being used to support this objective.

This year’s theme for the International Day of Peace is “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals”. What message does this convey?

It reminds me that we all need to take action. We all need to be responsible citizens and global citizens, making a difference in our respective countries to be able to contribute meaningfully to global peace through our local communities. Whether it is Team PNG athletes working with community health workers to support access to gender-based violence services in the Kokoda region of PNG, or Sophia’s work in Cyprus, each and every one of us can make that difference, but no one else can do it for us; we need to be able to take that step ourselves. I think that there’s so much more we can do together as a global movement by working with others who share our vision of building a better world.

What impact do you hope that Olympism365 will have on the Global Goals within the next five or 10 years?

I would like Olympism365 and its impact to be further validation of the role sport and Olympism can play to advance sustainable development and contribute to building more peaceful and sustainable communities.

One of the things that I’ve seen during my time in the Olympic Movement is the positive change that can come about using the platform of sport. I’ve seen the potential impact first-hand with our programmes, be it Kicks 4 Kokoda or the Olympic Values Education Programme. We use our Team PNG Olympians and elite athletes to not only be champions in the sporting field, but also to act as leaders in their communities. These athletes go out and run the education programmes, and they’re the faces that children and young people look up to and aspire to. But to sustain and scale this impact, we need to embed their contributions in education, health, social development and community safety. This is the mission of Olympism365.

Sustainable Development Goals

Gender EqualityNo PovertyPeace and JusticeReduced InequalitiesLearn more about Sustainable Development Goals

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