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  • Writer's pictureDavid Thibodeau

SDG #16 Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions on International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace speaks to what Sports for Social Impact is all about and believes. It’s the annual celebration of the power that sport has to drive societal change, sustainable development and foster peace and understanding between peoples and nations.

International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is easily broken down into two distinct categories. The first, development, where sport is used to lift people up and to ignite change in society. Sport for development uses sport as a policy tool to tackle issues like poverty, gender equality and climate change. Increased development will lead to increased peace. The second, is peace, where sport is used to bridge communities and find common ground between people where divides exist. I think specifically, sport for peace comes in the form of sport diplomacy.

With this in mind I decided to focus on SDG #16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. SDG 16 is all about reducing all forms of violence, and working to end conflict. Promoting the rule of law and human rights are key to this process. Sport diplomacy can be a tool for policy makers and international agencies to use to create stronger ties.

This is something that I have wanted to explore more in-depth for a while. I was really interested to know how sport can be used as a tool for international development at a more high level, rather than on the ground work like many of the other SDGs. Sport diplomacy strengthens our institutions by improving international relations and expanding our interdependence through things like increased trade. There is also the concept of grassroots sport diplomacy from the International Sport and Culture Association that I wanted to explore more as well.

I think the first, and possibly best, example of sport diplomacy is the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games since their inception during the times of Ancient Greece have had the tradition of the Olympic Truce. The Olympic Truce is to ensure the safe travel of athletes and spectators to the Games during times of war. The Olympic Games allows people to put aside their differences and come together in the spirit of international cooperation. Sports unite people. At the Games we strengthen bonds and links with other nations.

Further, individual nations are placing sport at the forefront of their foreign policy plans. The Australian Government launched their Sport Diplomacy 2030 initiative February of 2019.

“Sports Diplomacy 2030 envisages closer collaboration between the Australian sports codes, industry and government to leverage the nation's sporting excellence in ways that enhance Australia's influence and reputation and advance our national interests.

To help deliver these goals the strategy is organised around four strategic priority areas:

1. Empower Australian sport to represent Australia globally

2. Build linkages with our neighbours

3. Maximise trade, tourism and investment opportunities

4. Strengthen communities in the Indo-Pacific”

Australia is using sport to strengthen their reputation in the world and help build partnerships with other countries. This in turn helps with trade and helps grow the economy.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State uses sport as a tool for diplomacy as well. They highlight that they use sport as a way to transcend linguistic and sociocultural differences and that it can build links between countries.

Sport diplomacy is a growing trend for increasing international cooperation. It can be used to increase peace around the world. Governments should focus on using sport as a policy tool for increasing trade and links between nations.

A good example of sport diplomacy in action is how Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, on many of her oversea trips used sport to break down barriers and connect with women and girls around the world. This is a form of sport diplomacy. Building stronger connections and a global community through sport.

Another concrete example of sport diplomacy can be seen on the Korean Peninsula. During the 2018 Olympics we saw a joint North and South Korea delegation. They also announced that they intended on launching a joint bid for the 2032 Olympics. Sports are bringing these two countries together. A lot more needs to be done outside of the field of play, but sport can help bridge the divide. I think there needs to be a lot of consideration on the part of the IOC to determine if they should allow countries like North Korea that abuse human rights, to host the Olympics, but sport is uniting these two nations. These small steps can lead to something much bigger. The closer the ties between these two countries, the more work can be done to improve the lives of people living in North Korea.

There is also grassroots sport diplomacy. What is grassroots sport diplomacy? The International Sport and Culture Association defines grassroots sport diplomacy as “a new qualitative, cost efficient and impactful approach aiming at:

- Increasing or creating lasting dialogue and cultural understanding;

- Facilitating transfer of knowledge between the grassroots sport sector and

relevant actors (including other grassroots sport organisations, states, NGOs, civil

society or even individuals); and

- Contributing to society and individual development in the health, educational

and sport or social fields.”

They developed a Grassroots sport diplomacy course that is open to everyone. It really broke it down and showed how diplomacy doesn’t have to be just at the international level. Some of my key takeaways from this course are:

- Grassroot sport diplomacy is a tool for inclusion and integrating people into


- It can reach someone who otherwise might not be reached by other means of

diplomatic engagements. It reaches out to people in a more direct way;

- At the very heart of it, grassroot sport diplomacy is about using sport to solve

issues external to sport;

- It creates positive conditions for development.

I think that this really gets to the heart of one of the earlier articles about how sport can be used as a tool for inclusion in society for minority groups and newcomers. And also how sport can be used as a tool for development and empowerment. Sport diplomacy is needed at the grassroots level to help lift people up and help develop communities.

Policy makers should use sport as a policy tool to increase international presence, and social and economic ties. Using sport as the vessel for peace and development around the world.


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