Integrating sport into youth crime prevention and criminal justice strategies in focus at expert UNODC event

Integrating sport into youth crime prevention and criminal justice strategies in focus at expert UNODC eventBangkok (Thailand), 6 January 2020 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government of Thailand convened over 40 experts in Bangkok from 16 to 18 December for an exchange on best practices on integrating sport into youth crime prevention and criminal justice strategies. The experts came from government, academia, civil society, sport organizations, regional organizations and United Nations entities, namely UNDESA, UNICEF, UNICRI and UNESCO.

The high-level opening ceremony featured presentations by Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Rule of Law in Southeast Asia, Somsak Thepsuthin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Kittipong Kittayarak, Executive Director of the Thailand Institute of Justice and Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, Board Member of International Olympics Committee (IOC).

On behalf of UNODC, Candice Welsch, Deputy Director of the Division of Operations stressed the potential of sport to "provide a sense of belonging and an outlet for emotions", as well as to "empower girls and challenge attitudes that condone or justify gender-based discrimination and violence", especially through the strengthening of life skills among young people.

During the meeting, experts reflected on the use of sport and physical activity as part of primary and secondary prevention and in the context of efforts aimed at reducing recidivism. They agreed that sport in itself does not provide a panacea for crime reduction, but that it offers a useful vehicle to address a number of risk and protective factors of crime and violence, especially when combined with opportunities for participation, education and employment. The need to continue sharing good practices and analyzing what works and what not at national, regional and international levels was stressed.

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, noted the potential of sport and physical activity to motivate offenders to move away from crime, for which UNODC would "work closely with Thailand and the Thailand Institute of Justice in the context of prison-based and community based reintegration programmes, including those which use sport to rehabilitate youth in conflict with the law".

Moving forward, the findings from the meeting will be presented to the 29th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, as well as to the fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Kyoto.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development describes sport as an important enabler of sustainable development. It recognizes the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of young people and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives. The United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace provides a global roadmap for relevant stakeholders in this regard.

A growing body of international literature has made the case for the role that sport can play in reducing crime, including through community and prison-based sports initiatives. Aside from improving physical and mental health, sport-based initiatives can offer wider social and psychological benefits, including by providing access to pro-social networks and positive role models, and offering the opportunity to gain new experiences and achievements. 

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For further information, please contact the UNODC Justice Section at lucia.gonzalez@un.org