Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
6 April 2019
When the two national Olympic teams of the Korean Peninsula marched together last year during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, it was a symbolic gesture of reconciliation through sport.
A few months later, both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea decided, through UNESCO’s mediation, to inscribe traditional Korean wrestling, ssirum/ssireum, on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which recognizes several traditional sports and games from around the world. These are both powerful examples of the power of sport to forge the pathways of peace and dialogue to unite people.
Regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, sport is enjoyed by all; its reach is unrivalled. More importantly, though, sport promotes universal values that transcend language and culture, particularly inclusion. History abounds with examples of inspiring stories of how expanding sporting opportunity leads to greater inclusion in society overcoming prejudice against women, ethnic minorities and people living with a disability.
Such is the importance of sport, the United Nations General Assembly last year recognized it as a driver of sustainable development, not only for its role in peacebuilding and empowerment but also well-being in all our daily lives.
To spread this well-being – as well as the values of team spirit, discipline, equality, fair play and respect – UNESCO is teaming up with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to enhance children’s access to sport, by distributing footballs and supporting teachers to incorporate sport into curricula.
UNESCO Champion for Sport and Brazilian footballer, Edson Arantes do Nascimento – “Pelé” – once remarked that “sports is something that is very inspirational for young people”. This unique inspiration is why we at UNESCO remain deeply committed to working with young people across the globe to engage in their communities and contribute to positive transformations through sport.
The International Day for Sport for Development and Peace encourages people of all ages and background to participate in sport not only for better mental and physical well-being but also to consolidate lasting peace based on respect and dialogue.