Sporting talk seeks to promote peace

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United Nations special adviser, Adolf Ogi, has unveiled plans for an international conference, which will explore how sport can promote peace and development.

This content was published on January 13, 2003 - 17:25

The meeting, scheduled for February in Magglingen, canton Bern, is the first of its kind and will bring together politicians, business people, scientists and sports personalities.

Ogi, who is UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, said the meeting would look at how sport could help people and countries to work more closely together to resolve conflict and promote economic development.

Dozens of countries have already signalled their intention to attend the conference, which will also includes representatives from the UN.

Potential of sport

Speaking in Bern on Monday, Ogi, former Swiss sports minister, outlined the goals of the conference and its expected impact.

"The conference aims to create a platform where all the players are together - the United nations, the economic leaders, the spiritual leaders, the political leaders," Ogi told swissinfo.

"They should together create a bible which could be used by all those who want to help and to create a better world."

Ogi said sport can build bridges between countries. "In our struggle against the great threats to humanity of poverty and war, we must exploit the positive power of sport to the full," he said.

The conference is to be inaugurated on February 16 by the Swiss sports minister, Samuel Schmid. The Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, will make a keynote opening speech.

Other participants include Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, and Carol Bellamy, Executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Rebuilding societies

Walter Fust, director of the Swiss Development Agency said sport was already playing a limited role in development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

"Sport can make a crucial contribution to the prevention [of disease], which is of huge importance in countries with few developed public health services," he said.

"Likewise, various projects have shown that sport can perform important functions in the rebuilding of societies after armed conflicts or catastrophes."

Asked by swissinfo about the sometimes uneasy alliance between sport and politics, Fust said the issue was not relevant because the emphasis was not on professional sport "but sport as a part of social life and sport as a part of education for youth".

Sport is an ideal instrument for peace promotion and development, agreed Heinz Keller, director of the Federal Office for Sport in Magglingen.

He added, though, that its potential cannot develop alone but only through interplay with other social institutions.

Special role

The meeting will include workshops and round table discussions, focusing on issues such as "sport and personality development", "sport and socio-economic development" and "sport and peace promotion".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Right to Play will use the conference as a platform for launching initiatives and programmes in the area of sport and development.

The WHO together with its partners plans to launch its Move to Health campaign in Magglingen on February 17.

Two documents will emerge from the conference - the Magglingen Declaration on Sport and Development and a list of recommendations. Ogi will submit them both to UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in March.

Ogi was originally appointed to the UN role on a one-year basis in February 2001 but the post has been extended.

Creating the role especially for the Swiss politician, Annan said he wanted Ogi to help him "reach out to the world of sport in order to promote understanding and support for the work of the United Nations".

The conference will run from February 16-18.

Key players

Other high-profile attendees include the Russian sports minister and former world class ice hockey player, Vyacheslav Fetisov, and the Norwegian gold-medallist and President of Right to Play, Johann Olav Koss.

Russia's Olympic swimming champion, Alexander Popov, will also be there, as will the balloonist and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Goodwill Ambassador, Bertrand Piccard, and the legendary Olympic champion, Kipchoge Keino, President of Kenya's Olympic Committee.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

Key facts

UN special adviser, Adolf Ogi, unveils plans that show how sport can promote peace and development.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Right to Play will use the conference as a platform for launching initiatives.
The conference will run from February 16-18.

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