The United Nations recognizes sport and play as a fundamental tool in the global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As the UN puts it, “Sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize, and inspire. By its very nature, sport is about participation. It is about inclusion and citizenship. It stands for human values such as respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork, and fairness.”
Worldwide, thousands of schools, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies use soccer and other sports to promote education, development, and peace. The mobilizing power of sport—especially soccer, the world’s most popular game—is often used as a “door-opener” to convey crucial messages about HIV/AIDS, children’s rights, the environment, education, and gender equality.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told The Sydney Sun-Herald in 2009, “We have seen many cases where sport unifies people, especially with football [soccer].”
Soccer is used to reach those most in need, including refugees, child soldiers, victims of conflict and natural catastrophe, the impoverished, persons with disabilities, victims of racism, stigmatization and discrimination, and persons living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
For UNICEF and other child-centered agencies, sport is an essential tool in a wide variety of programs to support basic public health campaigns that promote hand-washing, community immunization, and the importance of clean water. Sport is also used to increase school attendance, reach girls who cannot access basic schooling, raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, provide healthy alternatives to drug and alcohol use, and teach life skills that reduce violence, sexual exploitation, and child labor.
The use of play and sport for education, development, and peace plays a vital role in the global education and development community. Coaches Across Continents is proud to contribute to this growing global movement.