Using the power of sports to prevent youth crime and drug use

13 December 2016 - This past week UNODC and the Government of the Federal District of Brasilia signed a new joint agreement which looks to use sports as a tool to prevent crime and drug use among youth. The initiative, which forms part of UNODC's  Global Programme on the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, provides life skills training programme to build resilience of at risk youth and reduce anti-social behaviour. It employs skills teaching in order to increase adaptive and positive behaviour and address risk factors related to violence, crime and drug use.

The signing ceremony, which was held in Brasilia's World Cup stadium, was attended by high level authorities from the Federal District and the international community, including the First Lady Márcia Rollemberg, the Sports and Leisure Secretary, Leila Barros, and the Public Safety Secretary, Márcia de Alencar.

Speaking at the event, Rafael Franzini, Representative of UNODC's  Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil, underscored the importance of sports to promote respect and reach out to youth, including socially excluded groups in society. He welcomed the support of the State of Qatar in providing funding for the programme and underlined UNODC's extensive experience in rolling out evidence-based prevention in the field of crime, violence and drug use. "Peaceful and inclusive societies are built by policies directed to people and justice for all", noted Mr. Franzini, who also highlighted the importance of "providing activities that develop mechanisms to mitigate youth vulnerabilities associated with crime and drug use."

The First Lady, Ms. Rollemberg, meanwhile thanked UNODC for implementing this part of the Global Programme in Brazil, adding: "We believe in participation, in social control and in a permanent process of dialogue with all segments of society".

Ms. Barros, an athlete and Olympic volleyball medallist herself, stressed that she was raised in a poor community of the Federal District and that sport helped her overcome obstacles in her life. She highlighted that sport is a tool for personal transformation and character building for children and adolescents. "Sport teaches us how to live with differences, to learn the value of others, to respect others and to deal with frustrations daily." Leading the Sports and Leisure Secretariat, Ms. Barros committed to support this important initiative and stated that she was honoured to have Brasilia as the first site to receive the youth sports programme.

Finally, Ms. de Alencar welcomed the support provided by UNODC, making the link between this sports-based programme and the crime prevention programme  Viva Brasilia. Noting that the UNODC programme focuses on vulnerable and at-risk youth, she saw it is an important contribution to the work being carried out to reduce crime rates in the city of Brasilia and the Federal District. "We have to understand the youth capacity and bring them to sports culture, in order to prepare them for the future."

In the coming years, several activities are foreseen under the programme. Among these are an active engagement of youth as ambassadors for safe and healthy communities as well as a large number of national and regional youth-oriented sports initiatives in cooperation with partner organizations from the United Nations to promote life skills, civic values, peaceful societies and a culture of lawfulness in line with the Doha Declaration.

The signing ceremony was preceded by visits of UNODC crime and drug use prevention experts to a number of sports facilities and discussions with relevant authorities to prepare the ground for testing and piloting the newly developed sports-based life skills training and related activities, including sports events.

Brazil is the first country where the programme will be rolled out. Activities in other countries in the region, as well as in Asia and Southern Africa are scheduled to start in 2017.

Further information:

Doha Declaration Global Programme

UNODC and Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

UNODC and Drug Prevention, Treatment and Care

UNODC Liaison and Partnership Office in Brazil