Sport, Development and Peace

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By: @samuelazout

On August 23, 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations through resolution 67/296 proclaimed April 6 as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Through this resolution, all countries were urged to develop policies that take advantage of the immense pedagogical possibilities of sport to build development and peace. Civil society, including non-governmental organizations, ask to observe this day and raise awareness about the importance of sport to improve the well-being of the people.

Sport with formative content is a great help to improve life opportunities for economically and socially excluded people. When practiced in safe spaces, sport allows to build positive relationships and develop confidence and self-esteem. Sport can open doors to opportunities and help the most vulnerable people in their social integration processes. Sport is also used to solve gender problems and promote new masculinities. The practice of sports with an emphasis on gender improves the perception that children and young people have of women and their abilities. In addition, the game allows women to have greater social interaction outside their homes and empowers them as building cohabitants.

Sport has proven to be especially effective in including women in dialogues of community coexistence and in reducing intrafamily violence. On the individual level, it is evident that sport promotes physical and mental health. The practice of sports helps prevent cardiovascular problems and, through the secretion of endorphins, helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression. In terms of social psychology, sport is an excellent vehicle to promote skills such as making the right decisions, self-reflection, assertiveness and appreciation for others.

Many communities around the world are using sport as a tool to build peace and coexistence. This is especially relevant in the case of Colombia. In many places, football supports demobilization, disarmament, protection against anti-personnel mines and artifacts of war, and helps the reintegration of ex-combatants. Sport has the capacity to pacify individuals with tendencies to hostility and violence, and to give back to communities a sense of security.

In Colombia, thirteen organizations grouped under the Football and Peace Network have enrolled more than 25,000 children and young people and their families in their programs. These organizations use the Football for Peace curriculum, which applies innovative rules for the game. For example, the teams are mixed and the first goal of the match should be scored by a woman, otherwise it is not worth it. This allows learning from an early age to include, value and motivate women. Girls and boys and young people who play Soccer for Peace do so without whistles and without referees, thus developing self-control and peaceful resolution of conflicts. During the game the participants make coexistence agreements about values such as honesty, learning not to fake mistakes and other deceptive practices. In the Football for Peace matches, the winning team is not the one with the most goals, but the one that best combines scored goals with the practice of values such as solidarity and tolerance. In Football for Peace it is important to learn to kick the ball to play as a team and score goals, but you also learn that failure is good because it gives us the opportunity to improve.

Sports initiatives designed for pedagogical purposes help overcome problems of violence, poverty and exclusion. Sport is a great vehicle, not only to occupy productive free time, but to form responsible citizens and build healthy and safe communities. These benefits increase the human capital of a society, strengthen the society and bring us closer to the desired peace.

You can change the lives of more than 5.000 children in Colombia with quality education through sport! SPONSOR A CHILD at the  Strikers For Peace Campaign.