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At UNHQ in NY, UNODC supports efforts to harness sport as a force for crime prevention

With additional reporting from the UN News Centre

13 April 2018 - "Fair play, tolerance and team spirit - sports have a unique potential to help develop and reinforce positive life skills and values, and expand prospects," noted Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director at a high-level event on the topic 'Crime Prevention and Sustainable Development through Sport' held in New York this past week. Pointing to UNODC's 'Line Up Live Up' initiative that is being piloted in a number of countries around the world, the Executive Director also highlighted how the organization is helping to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 16 which looks to peaceful, just and inclusive societies and those targets related to good health and well-being, education and reducing inequalities.

Celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the event organized by UNODC and the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Italy, Monaco, Qatar and Rwanda, brought together high-level UN officials, Member States representatives, distinguished sport athletes and civil society actors at the United Nations headquarters to reflect on how sport can be used for more effective crime prevention and long-term, sustainable development.

Opening the event, Miroslav Lajčák, President of General Assembly, referred to sport as a driver for combating crime, and promoting inclusion and sustainable development, saying that it can build strong social networks, boost self-esteem and help communities put their differences aside. Mr. Lajčáka also stressed that tackling crime is essential to changing the world for the better by 2030. "That is why the 2030 Agenda draws a link between combatting crime and sustaining development," he stated. "And, that is why I am so glad we are here to examine a driver of both."

Citing sport as a tool for crime prevention, he noted that research supports the assertion that sport participants have a better chance to reject crime and contribute to achieving the SDGs, saying that teams and associations can build strong social networks, and that sport can boost self-esteem and help communities put their differences aside, "to cheer for the same team." He elaborated that sports as educational or community-based activities, help "prevent crime or radicalization."  While the vast majority of youth are not involved in crime, he asserted that too many become trapped in cycles of violence and criminal activity. "When we are talking about the role of sport in preventing crime - young people should be leading the discussion," he said.

Several other speakers, including the United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, and former NBA All Star basketball player Dikembe Mutombo, underlined the need to invest in youth and to stimulate their participation in sport, crime prevention and development. Ms. Wickramanayake commented on the power of sport for this group: "Sport's intrinsic values such as teamwork, fair play, discipline and respect for one's opponent is a universal language that brings people together across boundaries. In addition, these values are integral to advancing solidarity, social cohesion, and peaceful coexistence."

Also speaking at the opening panel was Hassan Al-Thawadi, Secretary-General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and Anita DeFrantz, Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board, who illustrated, from the perspective of major sport events, how sport can address social issues and enable social change. Subsequent interactive panel discussions focused on how sport can empower women and girls, reduce crime and promote peaceful societies, as well as to ensure healthy life styles.

Around the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, the event made clear that more needs to be done to use sport effectively to promote inclusion and equality, transmit shared values and empower boys and girls to help them claim their rights and have a more active voice in their communities. Speaking on this, Fatuma Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan, Executive Director of the Horn of Africa Development Initiative and Board Member of Street Football World, stated, "Sport gives voice and choice", and should be given the attention and investments it needs.

Building on the event, UNODC and partners will step up efforts to support Governments, civil society, academia and sport organizations to work together to use sport as a tool for crime prevention and to strengthen youth resilience, including in the context of sport events, which can help reach out to young people and offer positive role models.