It might sound little off but “Sports” and other outdoor activities create a sense of better understanding between beings, which further assist in achieving goals for development. No it’s not just me; it’s the UN and its initiative that has created such innovative ideas in its quest to achieve development through creative means. “Sport for Development” is a project that use sports to achieve development goals such as eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring all education of boys and girls, and awareness in combating diseases like malaria. The “Sport for Development” works on two pillars:

  • Playing Sports: UN understands the importance of early age learning through various games and sports. It believes in the ideology of “learn and play”. As the children not only learn the fundamentals of development, they also learn basic life developing skills. With such innovative ideas lead to the formation of GOALS. GOALS is an NGO that encourages the importance of community service among children by teaching them how to play football. Another example is the Right to Play that teaches the importance of physical fitness, conflict resolution, and community building through sports and games to children living in conflict regions of Africa and Asia.
  • Watching Sports: This project involves various athletes, sports personalities and sports events to attract the attention on development issues. One such example is the annually played “Match against Poverty”. It is held in Brazil every year. In the event all celebrity football players come together to raise awareness and collect funds to fight poverty and hunger. The UN Foundation’s “Nothing but Nets Campaign” invites many famous NBA stars to raise awareness against malaria in Africa. Millions of Spectators watching the World Cup or the Olympic games, which are widely used as a medium to bring the world’s attention on social issues such as poverty and genocides.

Sports are just not fun and games, they also have the power to change the world, and so they did:

  • Brazil is a nation where millions live and breathe They hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and they will also host the Olympics in 2016. On the contrary, there are many Brazilians who are deprived from basic necessities and are forced to live in poverty and hunger. To voice their issue and to collect funds for their development, international community organized a football match between celebrity athletes such Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane on the 10th annual “Match against Poverty”. Over 50,000 fans attended the event and the proceedings were split between projects in Africa and Brazil.
  • Millions of people were introduced to the “new cheering tool” “vuvuzela” during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The World Cup was also raised awareness about discrimination and violence that South African women and girls face. SORE, an NGO provides safe environment for girls to play football and work with local volunteers. Hence a girl learns essential developing skills such as leadership, communication, disease prevention and most important equality.
  • The 2014 Winter Olympics were hosted by Russia and games were played in the city of Sochi. The United Nations along with many environmental organizations, including the Russian Geographical Society, work on various projects to minimise the effects of Olympic Games on the environment. The project involves restoring fisheries, expanding national park, and re-establishing leopard habitat.

A report titled “Sport for Development and Peace: Towards Achieving the Millennium Development Goals” was released by the UN on 2003. According to this report “playing and watching sports promotes health, education, peace, along with other development goals in the world”. The report focussed the importance on “Children rights to play”.

UNICEF works with numerous governmental and nongovernmental organizations in the world especially on “sport for development projects”, but it’s widely known projects involve activities performed by celebrities and sports stars. UNICEF’s Good Will Ambassador program involves numerous stars around the world who not only teaches the importance of games and sports in day today’s life but also focuses on the social issues in the region. Some Good Will Ambassadors include tennis star Serena Williams, football players David Beckham and Lionel Messi, along with many celebrity athletes, singers, and actors.

There are many international organizations that run sport for development projects. is one such effort that brings nongovernmental organizations into one roof. The website encourages NGO’s to start development projects through “Sports”.


So, next time when your son or your daughter insists to go for playing, do not stop them, “let them go and watch them grow”. Rather I would say, go with them. A healthy relationship begins when parents and children come together and perform joint exercise. This helps them in understanding one another. However, sports are not an ultimate solution for development. It is a tool that governments and NGOs can use to promote development, especially health and child abuse within the society.

There are several areas where we can promote development through sports:

  • Sports and Good Health: Sports can assist in encouraging nations to promote physical activity, healthy attitudes, increasing social get-together, along with a platform for communication and education.
  • Sport and Gender Equality: Sports can be used to empower women and children. Regular physical exercises decrease the chance of breast cancer among women. Sports can be used as a platform to provide girls and women with education and health services. However the UN recommends that sports should be made more accessible for women. The UN also recommends that sports should be a platform for equality between men and women.
  • Sports and Physical Difficulty: Many people with disabilities face discrimination in the society, leading to poor education and working atmosphere. Sports can be used as a medium of change to bring the disabled back into the society. Sports for people with disabilities such as the wheel chair sports should be encourages and used as a tool for empowerment. The UN promotes sports with disabilities and recommends the government of member nations to do so too.

Anant Mishra is former youth representative United Nations. He has served in number of committees including United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and United Nations General Assembly primarily focusing on international trade, middle east crisis, education, finance, economics. He can be reached on

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