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Ogi wins UN backing for bigger role for sport

(swissinfo.ch)

The UN special adviser on sport for development and peace says there is increasing understanding in the international community that sport can promote tolerance.

Switzerland's Adolf Ogi says he's pleased that the United Nations General Assembly decided to extend his mandate, but it is not yet clear whether he will stay in his post for another year.

"Our activities have created a lot of goodwill," Ogi told swissinfo in New York. "It's like mountain climbing, you go step by step."

He added that sport was an efficient and reasonable way of achieving the UN millennium goals, including a reduction by half of worldwide poverty by 2015.

The former Swiss government minister, who has been special advisor to the outgoing secretary-general, Kofi Annan, since 2001, said sport had gained its place within the UN but it had been hard work.

On Friday Annan told the UN General Assembly how sport can be used to promote peace and contribute to development.

Crossing boundaries

Switzerland's ambassador to the UN, Peter Maurer, said during the debate that sport would play an important part in the future by strengthening the partnership between the UN and civil society.

Ogi said sport not only helps to stay fit and healthy but it also teaches people social skills. He said he strongly believed in the message that young people could learn tolerance and mutual respect in sport.

He added that sport could be instrumental in crossing religious, cultural and racial boundaries. He pointed out that a mixed team of Israeli and Palestinian youngsters took part in a soccer tournament in Switzerland last August.

"They played together in one team although there was a war between Israel and Lebanon at the time."

Year of Sport

Ogi also presented a book on the occasion of the UN Year of Sport in 2005. The 400-page strong publication gives an overview of the activities of the countries, sports associations and non-governmental groups.

It highlights the role stars, such as tennis ace Roger Federer of soccer heroes David Beckham and Ronaldo, play to pass on positive values through sport.

Ogi said he had received assurances from senior UN officials that sport should also become part of international humanitarian missions and for members of peacekeeping troops.

Ogi held talks in New York with representatives of the secretary-general elect, Ban Ki-moon, over the past few days. He said he was willing to continue his mission on a temporary basis. A final decision is expected in the next few months.

swissinfo, Rita Emch in New York

In brief

Ogi, a former Swiss government minister, was appointed special advisor on sport for development and peace by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001.

In November 2004 Ogi launched the UN Year of Sport in New York together with Annan and Swiss tennis star Roger Federer. An international conference in Switzerland was held at the end of 2005.

The Swiss government's contribution towards Ogi's mandate for 2006 and 2007 totals SFr820,000 ($654,000).

Ogi said he was willing to continue in his role under Annan's successor, Ban Ki-moon.

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Resolution

The resolution adopted by the General Assembly calls on the UN, member countries and organisations to present projects for sport as a means to promote peace and development.

UN member states are to develop special sport activities aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and boost their empowerment.

Member states and sport federations are urged to assist and help fund such programmes in developing countries.

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