The COVID-19 pandemic has had harmful effects on young people and communities across the world, with factors such as the loss of education and employment opportunities leading to increased risks of crime and stress associated with isolation. In Uzbekistan, where schools have been closed for much of the time since last year March, sport is being used as a powerful tool to bring educators and children back to normal school life. In this context, the Uzbek Ministry of Public Education and UNODC recently initiated a comprehensive sport-based campaign among young people in Kokand city, Fergana Valley. This campaign brought together educators from 40 schools in the region in several gatherings and saw a diverse range of people receive new, interactive tools to address issues around corruption, human trafficking, violent extremism, and integrity and ethics.
Many parts of the world, including countries in Central Asia, have faced a surge in extremist ideology and radicalization in recent years, particularly among young people, posing a direct threat to peace, stability and development. Given the youthful population across the region and the vulnerability of young people to recruitment by violent extremist groups, it is essential to cater to their needs and put in place preventive actions that will address the root causes of violent extremism.
Spain is the first European country to have implemented the UNODC Line Up Live Up curriculum on life skills through sport and, since 2019 when the project was launched in the city of Santurtzi, in the Basque Country, it has formed part of a comprehensive partnership between local educational, social, and health authorities.
Strengthening valuable life skills among youth, and preventing drug use and engagement in crime, are the key goals of the programme. Recently, the School Council of the Basque Country officially recognized the value of Line Up Live Up in promoting drug use prevention, sport, and seeking to achieve developmental goals in an innovative way.
Shakhnoza Mirzayeva was always an active child: dancing, drawing, knitting - her mother encouraged her a lot. "I dreamed of becoming a doctor," says Shakhnoza. "However, at the age of 10, I had a serious accident and had part of my leg amputated. Somebody told me I would not be able to pass the medical examination to become a doctor. Now I know it is not true, but back then I gave up on my dream." Shakhnoza's rehabilitation took one year. "As soon as I got used to my prosthetic leg, I continued my active lifestyle. I learned to ride a bike again and played with the kids in my neighbourhood."
While preventing crime is often considered the responsibility of law enforcement, for efforts to succeed a much more comprehensive approach is required. This includes building strong partnerships with a wide diversity of sectors - including education, social, health, youth, civil society and sports - to tackle the root causes of violence and crime and promote positive youth development and wellbeing, with a focus on early prevention, and investing on young people and local communities.
The contribution of the sport sector in the context of holistic crime prevention approaches was explored further during the 30th session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ).