Historical archive

Speech to “Start Life Support 2005”: Sports, Social Responsibility and Development

Historical archive

Published under: Regjeringen Bondevik II

Publisher Utenriksdepartementet

Minister of International Development, Ms Hilde F. Johnson

Speech to “Start Life Support 2005”: Sports, Social Responsibility and Development

Seminar in Kristiansand, 13 January 2005

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to “kick off” by taking you to a sports stadium I visited about a year ago. There, at the Olympic Stadium in Kabul, I caught a glimpse of the future. In this arena, where only a few years ago the Taliban regime was committing unspeakable acts of horror towards women, young Afghan girls were now competing in a race for the first time ever. Some veils had been torn off, others were fluttering in the wind. The girls were enjoying the event, enjoying the competition, enjoying their new-found freedom. They were happy and hopeful, full of expectations for a better future.

In this context the UN is right: “Sport is far more than a luxury or a form of entertainment…Access to and participation in sport is a human right… The potential of sport as a tool for development and peace has yet to be fully realised.” (Sport for Development and Peace: Towards Achieving the MDGs. UN 2003)

Having myself enjoyed playing volleyball in my teens, I am not hard to convince. But in many circles and institutions working with international development sport is still seen as rather a luxury.

Despite this, the value of sport is appreciated in all parts of the world. The excitement of a race along a dusty road, the fun of a soccer game, even if the ball is nothing more than rags tied together with string, the happiness of playing, even in places where happiness rarely exists.

We know that participating in sports can teach life skills and build confidence. Becoming a team player, learning to respect your opponent, knowing you need to practise to perform better, learning how to cope with victory and overcome defeat – these are lessons that will serve everyone well, in the developing as well as the developed world.

We know that participating in sport can offer happiness and hope, even when nothing else does.

We know that entire communities can benefit from sports initiatives. Sports energise – both physically and mentally. We must also recognise the opportunity for empowerment that sports movements and organisations provide. If managed well, these movements and organisations represent a unique arena for participation and self-expression.

But have we really exploited the true potential that sports have for empowering and fulfilling the rights of women and children, and marginalised people such as the disabled?

I don’t think so. We need clear strategies in this area. This is true of governments, of sports movements and of development agencies.

2005 is the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. This seminar is a good start to what will hopefully become a truly global year of sport. Not only with regard to our own performances and our own teams and athletes. No, we must also focus on the developing world.

13 days into the new year, we still stand in the shadow of the tsunami disaster around the Indian Ocean.

For many people 2005 will be the most difficult year they have ever faced. Recognising this, the sports community is already making active efforts to help with relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Last weekend the Norwegian sports associations launched a huge media campaign in support of the flood victims. Leading athletes and large and small sports associations joined hands and mobilised the entire population. The campaign demonstrates the sport community’s social conscience and its capacity to mobilise in times of crises.

A prominent member of the sports community, the Start Sports Association in Kristiansand, which is one of our co-hosts for this event, is also celebrating its 100 th> anniversary this year – still as vital as ever and warmly welcomed back into the ranks of the leading football teams in Norway. I want to thank “Start” for your commitment to international solidarity, and for the way you have contributed to this event.

2005 is only 10 years away from the deadline for the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals – the eight goals for fighting poverty set by world leaders at the turn of the millennium.

In 2000 these leaders agreed to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, to make sure that all children, girls and boys alike, have access to primary education by 2015. To promote gender equality. To make it possible for more children to survive their fifth birthday, and for more mothers to survive giving birth. To reverse the pandemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. To ensure environmental sustainability, and to create a true global partnership for development.

This year we are facing the first real status report of where we are and how we are doing. 2005 will provide us with plenty of opportunities to make a real global impact. If we have the necessary will. In this endeavour we also need the help of sports associations and individual sportswomen and sportsmen to mobilise people and politicians.

How can you do this?

You can help in the field.

You can help build competence.

You can help mobilise people.

First, You can help in the field – by using sports as a development tool. We need to focus on sport as a tool to achieve development results. For a long time we have had a fruitful co-operation with the main sports organisations in Norway. The Norwegian Confederation of Sports and the Norwegian Football Association have played an active role in development efforts and sports projects around the world.

The development aspects of this engagement are becoming increasingly prominent, with clear practical effects. Kicking Aids Out is one example.

We have also seen international initiatives like Johan Olav Koss’ organisation “Right to Play”, which focuses on sports for children and young people in refugee camps. I am glad to see him here. The name “Right to Play” is a strong statement. And a statement I warmly support.

Norway will seek to strengthen sports organisations’ role in fighting poverty and in our overall international development work. Our approach is that sport is an integral part of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals.

This means integrating the sports dimension into sectors such as education and health, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, and into the efforts to promote peace and conciliation. Kicking Aids Out can become an important tool in primary schools, for example.

We will also support and encourage partnerships between sports associations and social and humanitarian organisations directly engaged in international development work.

In all these efforts one needs to focus on gender equality and to encourage the broadest possible participation, regardless of sex, ethnicity, social status or religious belief. This includes vulnerable and marginalised groups. These are concerns we share with the sports movement.

The crucial point here is integration. In other words: we do not expect to see so many new purely sports projects, but we hope to see the broader efforts to fight poverty benefiting from the expertise of the sports organisations. I encourage you to be creative, to see how sports can be used in achieving the Millennium Goals at the global level.

All efforts to achieve the Goals must always be based on partnership with the local and national authorities in the partner country. Everything we do must be based on this sense of ownership and must be co-ordinated with other actors. This also applies to my next main point.

You can help build competence

The development community shares many basic values with the international sports movement, and that these organisations have, locally and internationally, developed expertise and a network that clearly represent added value to traditional development policy

These common values can be expressed in the slogan “Sport for All”, and our aim is to encourage broad participation. Partnerships between sports associations in developing and developed countries are an important tool in achieving this.

Many such partnerships have already led to competence building in developing countries. They have built competence in creating functioning national, regional and local organisations, in decision-making procedures, in leadership structures and qualities.

The ongoing co-operation between these partners and MYSA/Mathare United in Nairobi is a very good example of how this kind of co-operation can produce results – how it can both build competence and institutions locally, and form partnerships and friendships that have long-term effects. These effects will be visible at this seminar and the football tournament.

Most important is the real impact for the people of the Mathare slum in Nairobi. The Norwegian Prime Minister and I recently had the opportunity to visit MYSA, and were able to see their work at close hand. We were very impressed.

A key to understanding the broad public support for Norwegian development efforts is our deeply rooted tradition of voluntary and civil society work. This is to a very large degree reflected in our many sports associations. We encourage Norwegian sports associations to promote the ideal of voluntary work in their international co-operation, thus strengthening civil society and institutional capacity.

There are also other types of partnership that yield good results for those involved. Events like this – a co-operation between the Strømme Foundation, the Start Sports Association and UNEP/GRID-Arendal is one example of a new form of partnership that could have an impact on development.

At the national level we have established partnerships with the main actors in the sports community, and there are a number of arenas and projects where government bodies and the voluntary sports movement have co-operated – from sports events like the Norway Cup tournament to the more long term co-operation between Norad, the Norwegian Confederation of Sports, and others. These are partnerships we will continue to build on in the future.

We will come back to this and a number of other issues in more detail in our new strategy on culture and sports in Norwegian development policy.

There are three areas, however, where we must be cautious. Three dangers you, and we, must be aware of as we venture into new arenas and establish new partnerships. These dangers are: misuse of funds, corruption and, to put it bluntly, misuse of people. Misuse of people is related both to the exploitation of promising young talents and to abuse – physical and sexual. These dangers need our special attention. I encourage all of you to take precautionary measures in this regard, and establish strict, clear ethical guidelines.

Thirdly, you can help mobilise people. The arenas offered by the sports movement provide a unique opportunity for contact with the public at large. This is why they are ideal for communication.

No one can communicate better with the public than famous athletes and sports stars. Nothing can reach further than sport in terms of numbers – both of active sportsmen and women, and of spectators. This is a fantastic arena for promoting the message of fighting poverty, caring about those in need and reaching the MDGs. I encourage you all to use this tool, and to let us use you for this purpose.

A powerful alliance here would be a partnership between sports and private-sector sponsors. Such partnerships have potential in the field of development co-operation. But first and foremost they are powerful in terms of communication and funds, in getting the message across. I urge you to think creatively about how we all can make use of this fantastic opportunity to mobilise the public.

We have a window of opportunity now, with the enormous support for the tsunami victims. Let us build on that, and help many, many more.

Sport is a unique tool in development. It appeals to all ages, all cultures, all religions. It offers a respite from the daily struggle, and teaches lessons that are essential for improving lives and communities. It spreads a message of inclusion and interdependence. It is an indispensable addition to international development in general, and to Norway’s development efforts in particular.

I commend all of you on your involvement and enthusiasm. We are all partners in the most important race of all: the race to win the fight against poverty by 2015. To that end, we must work hard, we must work well, and we must work together.

We know we need to pick up the pace, but if we make a real sprint at the end, it can be done. It must be done – by all of us.

I want to go back to the Olympic Stadium, to the aspirations of the female runners in Kabul. The Millennium Development Goals are first and foremost for them.

The world community cannot afford to disappoint the girls and boys of Afghanistan and other poor countries, to cut short the race they have already started. We must deliver on our commitment to their future – and allow them to reach their goals for a better tomorrow, when they and their country can prosper and live in peace.

Thank you.

VEDLEGG