Sports, Keeping Youth Away from Crime

26 February 2018 - Sports can contribute immensely to improving people's physical and psychological health. They also present the world with a universal language and a sense of belonging and support. In promoting mutual respect and tolerance, sports teaches important social and interpersonal skills. Using sports to help people, especially youth, has proven to be an effective tool in keeping them from falling into a cycle of anti-social behaviour, violence, crime and drug use.

With the creation of the Doha Declaration Global Programme, UNODC developed the Youth Crime Prevention component to engage children and youth in sports-based life skills training.

Under the slogan of " Line Up, Live Up," UNODC designed a sports-based teaching method to provide young people with essential life skills that have proven to enhance their resilience against crime, violence and drug use. Girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 18 are trained on ways to cope with common challenges emotional and psychological stress, and educated to sharpen their critical thinking, decision making and problem-solving skills. Line Up, Live Up teaches them more effective communication skills, deeper self-awareness and increased empathy, and, just as importantly, helps them reinforce their refusal skills - saying no to substance use or to criminal activities.

For ten sessions of an hour each, over the course of several weeks, girls and boys partake in various games, an array of physical activities, and, importantly, a debriefing, winding down session to share experiences and lessons learned.

Thanks to the generous contribution by the State of Qatar to the Programme, UNODC has already trained some 150 sports coaches and trainers in Brazil, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa, who themselves have engaged with and coached nearly 1,000 youngsters. With the training curriculum already available in English, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian, the program is in the process of being extended to seven additional countries.

UNODC's Youth Crime Prevention initiative not only directly helps schools, youth centres and young people; it also more advocates for the more innovative use of sports in the context of youth crime prevention. Demonstrations of the  Line Up, Live Up curriculum have been made to a variety of audiences over the last year, from policymakers in Austria, to some 2,000 participants in sports tournaments in South Africa and Kyrgyzstan. In addition, UNODC arranged roundtable discussions on peacebuilding with sports experts and young people in Brazil, and brought together youth from both sides of the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border to play sports together.

At the recent celebrations of the National Sports Day in Doha, Qatar,  Oliver Stolpe, UNODC's programme manager responsible for the implementation of the Doha Declaration Global Programme, stressed that "sports are an essential component of our modern society's goals, and it was only a matter of time UNODC leaned on them in its global mission to advance crime prevention."