28 June 2019 - Children playing team sports together not only get the physical benefits of activity and the advantages of teamwork, but they can also learn valuable skills which they can apply in numerous other settings. Sports programmes have therefore increasingly given weight to these factors, using games and physical activities to teach young people how to resist social pressures to engage in delinquency, crime and drugs, how to cope with anxiety, and how to communicate effectively with peers, amongst other life skills.
UNODC's own Line Up, Live Up initiative, conceived by the Youth Crime Prevention through Sports initiative of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, has been launched for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa region, in the State of Palestine, in cooperation with the Higher Council for Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Education; it follows UNODC's partnership with UNRWA, started in 2018 to scale up programme activities there. UNODC has already trained 62 trainers and coaches who will then train Palestinian boys and girls along the Line Up, Live Up curriculum, helping them build their resilience to crime and to substance use.
Cristina Albertin, UNODC's Regional Representative in the region, welcomed the initiative in a ceremony last week in Ramallah, during which the latest set of trainers received their certification, and in which UNODC provided a set of sports equipment which will be divided amongst 33 UNRWA schools throughout Palestine, engaging nearly 19,000 students in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Qalqilia, Tulkarem, Hebron, Jenin and Birzeit.
"We are looking forward to strengthen our cooperation with UNRWA in Palestine," Ms. Albertin told the gathered guests, "through the training and mentoring of additional teachers on the Line Up, Live Up curriculum, increasing access of marginalized youth to sports."
The sentiment was echoed by the Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank Field Office, Meg Audette, who remarked on the special circumstances of the youth there: "For UNRWA, preventing youth crime through sports-based life skills programmes came to us at a very unique time of our history. We fought to find a number of partnerships that would enable us to provide critical programming for youth - particularly here in the West Bank, where young people are facing numerous challenges that are in many ways unique to the region."
The varied sports equipment which UNODC handed over last week includes more than 600 balls for use in various sports (such as volleyball, basketball, handball), parachutes, badminton equipment, volleyball goals and nets, basketball boards and goals, tennis tables, handball goals, vaulting spring boards, cones, mattresses and jumping ropes. Importantly, this equipment will be made available to all the children in the participating schools, and not only to those students taking part themselves in the Line Up, Live Up programmes.
For Mohammad Sbaihat, Director General of the Youth Affairs Department in the Higher Council for Youth and Sports of the State of Palestine, the implementation of the programme was timely and necessary: "We are glad to be the first Arab country to implement this strong programme. We are committed to it, we are pleased with the results because we have witnessed the progress of students, and we will train more trainers to spread it to different regions through our local trainers."
Certified Palestinian sports trainers were particularly impressed with the training they had received. Islam Abou Gosh, Deputy of the International Relations Unit at the Higher Council for Youth and Sports, and a trainer of trainers in UNODC's programme herself, commented: "Line Up, Live Up has opened my eyes to new training techniques, and I was able to focus on new skills that I thought I never had. Building and enhancing the life skills of youth using sports is a wonderful way to combat peer pressure, difficult life situations, and most importantly preventing drugs, crimes and violence." Ms. Abou Gosh was also particularly pleased about one aspect of the initiative: "50% of the participants are female, which promotes gender equality and women empowerment."