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United Nations: Agreement Signed with Olympic Committee

(Apr. 30, 2014) On April 28, 2014, the United Nations and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the role of sports in development and peace. The pact was signed at U.N. headquarters by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the chief of the Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach. Ban stated “[s]port has great power in bringing people together” and thanked the IOC for being a “steadfast partner of the United Nations.” (UN, Olympic Committee Sign Formal Agreement on Role of Sport in Development, Peace, UN NEWS CENTRE (Apr. 28, 2014).)

On the same day the agreement was signed, Jacques Rogge, the former IOC President and now its honorary President, was appointed by Ban as the Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport. His role will be to promote sports as a tool for young people in refugee and displaced persons communities and to promote broad goals like peace, reconciliation, and gender equality as well as the health and education of the participants. (Id.) The goal of using sports for a wider purpose is consistent with the Olympic Charter, which states that the “goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport.” (Olympic Charter, art. 1(1) (as in force on Sept. 9, 2013), IOC website.)

Purpose of the MOU is to promote sports in parts of the world that have experienced conflict, such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Syria, and in nearby countries now hosting refugees from conflicts. Ban noted that sports can play a very positive role in these areas, giving young people a sense of normalcy and motivating them in schools. In addition, he said, sports can help girls and women find leadership opportunities, be a vehicle for public health and environmental messages, and “bridge cultural, religious, ethnic and social divides.” (UN, Olympic Committee Sign Formal Agreement on Role of Sport in Development, Peace, supra.)

Speaking for the IOC, Bach stated that the organization is “extremely honoured and proud and excited to join hands with the UN,” adding that he hoped the agreement will increase cooperation between the two organizations. (Id.)

John Ashe, President of the U.N. General Assembly, spoke about the ability of sports to make a difference in light of the Millennium Development Goals, an anti-poverty initiative. He said, “[w]e hope to be able to count on the voices of athletes worldwide to put the spotlight on our new development goals, as well as to set an example by embracing sustainable practices … sport fosters unity, encourages participation and inclusion, advances human rights, and promotes peace and development.” (Id.; see also We Can End Poverty: Millennium Development Goals and Beyond 2015, U.N. website (last visited Apr. 29, 2014).)