The role of Sport in promoting peace and justice

"I was told that in Nigeria, football is passion, but it is a lie because it is more than that. In Nigeria, I was told that football is love, but it is a lie it is more than that. In Nigeria, I was told that football is a religion, but it is a lie. It is more than that. In Nigeria, football is life". This statement was made by FIFA President Gianni Infantino during a visit in Lagos in February 2018.

It is this spirit that the United Nations General Assembly sought to convoke when adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In an unprecedented fashion world leaders recognized the "contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objective."

At UNODC we have been taken this guidance to heart and launched our Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative within the framework of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration. Under the slogan "Line Up Live Up" (LULU) this initiative has designed a programme for youth, living in neighborhoods severely affected by crime, drugs and violence, aimed to engage them through sports and help them to build their resilience and leadership in standing up for themselves and others against these societal ills.

In a ten weeks programme, sports coaches, teachers and others working with youth in sports settings build valuable life skills, such as resisting social pressures, coping with anxiety and communicating effectively with peers, through a set of interactive and fun exercises. The programme has been successfully tested in several countries, including in the townships of South Africa and the favelas of Brazil. Since 2017, UNODC's training has already been successfully implemented in nine other countries with more than 600 sport teachers and coaches and 4.500 young people trained. Women accounts for over 35% of the beneficiaries.

In Nigeria, similar initiatives have been undertaken to promote youth development through sports, including the 2018 football tournament organized in Lagos by Hon. Adedamola Richard Kasunmu and gathering grassroots teams. Recalling the words of FIFA President Infantino, the potential of sports to promote peace and the rule of law appears unlimited, thus rolling out the "Line Up Live Up" programme to Nigeria would appear the next logical step.