Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Special session: “Safeguarding Sport from Corruption” in the margins of UNGASS

  2 June 2021

Distinguished Minister,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us at this event on safeguarding sports, organized in the margins of the very first UN General Assembly Special Session against corruption.

I am grateful to Belgium, the United States, and to our partners at FIFA and the IOC for joining UNODC for our discussion on tackling corruption and crime in sports.

The global sports industry, valued at 756 billion dollars annually, has suffered in the pandemic at all levels.

The cancellation and postponement of professional sporting events has affected entire sports ecosystems and put millions of livelihoods on the line, impacting not only those working in the sports industry, but also those in related retail and services jobs.

Lockdowns and restrictions on activities have disrupted youth sports around the world, with a negative impact on health, and deprived young people of important outlets for their social and mental well-being.

The empowerment of women and girls through sports has also taken a step backwards during this time, as outlined in a report of the UN Secretary-General and by UN Women.

Confinement periods and the global recession have compromised the survival of women’s teams and leagues, while many girls will be unable to return to sports practice even after COVID measures are lifted.

As countries acknowledged in a General Assembly resolution last December, sports are an enabler of sustainable development, and they have an essential role to play in building forward from the pandemic towards healthy, inclusive, and resilient societies.

The comprehensive Political Declaration to be adopted by UNGASS today includes a strong commitment by Member States to join forces in protecting sports from wrongdoing, including within the framework of the UN, and to adopt a multi-stakeholder approach.

To inspire us and contribute to our shared prosperity, sports need to offer a level playing field, and be free from corruption and crime.

The UNGASS Political Declaration highlights the need for cooperation between sports organizations, international and regional organizations, as well as law enforcement authorities, and underscores the value of awareness-raising, expertise exchange and best practice sharing.

UNODC has been promoting such cooperation through its Programme on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption and Crime. I am grateful to the European Union, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the IOC for their support of the Programme.

Since 2018, our Programme has brought together representatives from law enforcement agencies, criminal justice and anti-corruption authorities, as well as sports organizations from more than 130 countries, to address threats to sports.

Our office helps foster a culture of integrity by assisting Member States and sports organizations in building their capacities to tackle corruption and crime in sports.

We have seen a strong increase in the number of specific laws adopted to tackle corruption in sports, from 25 laws identified in 2016 to 42 laws in 2021, and we are supporting Governments in developing effective laws in this area.

By organizing training workshops and promoting the exchange of information, we have also assisted more than 7500 officials from criminal justice authorities, law enforcement, and sports organizations in their efforts to prevent, detect, and investigate wrongdoing in sports.

Using our knowledge and global expertise, we have recently had the privilege of supporting the Italian Presidency of the G20 to develop draft High Level Principles on Tackling Corruption in Sport, which are currently under negotiation.

Partnering with national, regional and international sports bodies is key to the success of our work.

As part of our collaboration with the IOC, we are jointly co-chairing a new task force of the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport, aiming to assess and strengthen cooperation between law enforcement and criminal justice authorities and sports organizations.

We also very much value our excellent partnership with FIFA, strengthened under a new agreement signed last year. The FIFA Global Integrity Programme, which is delivered in collaboration with UNODC, will provide all 211 FIFA member associations with the knowledge and tools to fight match-fixing at the local level.

Looking ahead, we see many opportunities for UNODC to strengthen its contributions to safeguarding sports, drawing upon its roles as a connector, convener, and expertise provider.

We are excited to leverage the potential of the new UNODC Globe network of anti-corruption law enforcement authorities, which we are launching tomorrow, for the investigation of cases involving corruption in sports.

Police and justice cooperation as part of the Globe network can strengthen information sharing to help disrupt illegal betting and the manipulation of sports competitions, as well as money laundering and fraud in the context of major sports events and player transfers.

We will also continue working with the IOC to develop the capacities of criminal justice authorities and sports organizations to address corruption in sport through training activities. We are jointly developing two guides, to be published at the end of this year, to support investigators, legislators, parliamentarians, policymakers and justice professionals in tackling the manipulation of sports competitions.

In December this year, we plan to launch the first-ever UNODC Global Report on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption, at the ninth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in Sharm al-Sheikh.

The report will map the types of threats facing sports and present recommendations for addressing them, backed by examples of successful strategies implemented around the world, which will help Member States assess and enhance their own measures.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In this landmark year for anti-corruption action, the Sharm al-Sheikh conference will take forward the UNGASS Political Declaration, including its focus on safeguarding sports.

Together, we can keep sports integrity at the top of the international agenda, so the world can harness the power of sport, to heal our societies and bring us joy, helping us to emerge stronger from the crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Thank you.