16 December 2020 – Recognizing the value of sports in advancing peace and development, UNODC’s Regional Office for Central Asia (ROCA) this week launched a new outreach campaign designed to build youth resilience towards drugs, crime and violence. Developed in partnership with Uzbekistan’s National Olympic Committee as well as Government authorities and other UN entities, the new campaign – ‘I Choose Sport’ – is centred around a series of social-focussed videos and features several Uzbek sports champions as positive role models for the country’s youth.
Set to be broadcast across the country on all public channels in Russian and Uzbek languages, with an estimated target audience of over 10 million people, the videos feature several prominent sports personalities who lent their time to this effort, including: weightlifting and boxing Olympic champions, Ruslan Nurudinov and Khasanboy Dusmatov; athletics and high jump Asian Games champions, Khaidarov Marat and Radzvil Svetlana; three-time gymnastics world champion, Oksana Chusovitina; Paralympic canoe champion, Shakhnoza Mirzaeva; and world female bronze medallist for tennis, Iroda Tulyagangova.
This new series builds on UNODC’s ongoing work in Uzbekistan around the idea of using sport as a vehicle to prevent youth crime and violence. The Doha Declaration Line Up Live Up initiative, which consists of a sport-based, life-skills training curriculum for youth aged 13-18 years old, was first launched in the country in 2019, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Education, as well as the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports. Since then, it has been officially registered by the Government as a school-based programme, with 84 physical education teachers and coaches and more than 1,000 school students being involved so far, despite restrictions seen under COVID-19.
Awareness-raising activities, such as the present video campaign, are an important extension of this work and look to ensure the potential of sport as a tool for peace, learning and resilience to difficult life situations is conveyed. The four videos developed each highlight a different aspect of how sport can prevent antisocial behaviour and help young people set goals, achieve them and lead a healthy lifestyle.
‘Athlete’, for instance, juxtaposes the lives of two young people – one is seen running away from the police, while the second is shown as a sports person running in an athletic setting, and while both young people perform the same physical actions, the results vary greatly. Another in the series, ‘Life choice’, meanwhile explores a decision that a young man faces and, influenced by the examples set by national sports champions who show the positive role sport played in their lives, how his choice leads him on the right path.
Kicking off this campaign and its airing on national television and online, an official launch event was held in Tashkent, bringing together the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Uzbek Agency for Youth Affairs, and the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia. “Building youth life skills is key to minimizing risk factors and strengthening protective factors associated with crime, violence and drug use,” noted Koen Marquering, UNODC Criminal Justice Programme Coordinator in Central Asia. “Sport offers a rewarding alternative to engaging in delinquent behaviour: it teaches teamwork, solidarity and fair play; it can provide a sense of belonging and an outlet for emotions; and it may also lead to positive changes in gender relations by encouraging collaboration and understanding among participants of different genders," he added.
These sentiments were echoed by the other participants, who discussed Line Up Live Up’s unique teaching approach and the importance of youth crime prevention.
https://youtu.be/0yMNf-u5Y0sFor his part, Dilshod Kenzhaev, Deputy Minister of Public Education, flagged the importance of the new outreach series: “Together with UNODC, we are now implementing the Youth Crime Prevention through Sports initiative for the second year. These new motivational videos that we are presenting today aim to help young people not stumble in their paths and prevent engagement in criminal activities”. The Deputy Head of the Academy of the Prosecutor General's Office of Uzbekistan, Uygun Nigmajanov, meanwhile spoke of the ongoing work conducted as part of the Doha Declaration Global Programme. “The Academy of the General Prosecutor’s office supports such important UNODC initiatives such as Line Up Live Up, as well as the Education for Justice initiative, and I am glad that through these tools we are collectively moving towards important universal values, such as peace, justice and mutual respect.”
Farrukh Omonov, Deputy Director of the Youth Affairs Agency, expressed his hope that “the videos will increase the interest of Uzbek youth in sports”, and shared his readiness to promote the videos through the Agency’s communication channels and networks. Finally, closing the event, Otabek Eshmamatov, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports of the Republic of Uzbekistan, flagged how this work perfectly dovetails with efforts being promoted at the country’s highest levels. “The goals of Line Up Live Up correspond to the main priority initiatives of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan to promote sports and healthy lifestyles among the population, especially young people,” he said. “It is an excellent crime prevention programme, it teaches cooperation and respect, and young people understand the importance of life skills that they acquire through the trainings.”