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UN General Assembly recognises that “the unifying and conciliative nature” of major international sports events “should be respected”


01 Dec 2022 – IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed the adoption of the new resolution by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, which recognises that major international sports events “should be organised in the spirit of peace”, and that “the unifying and conciliative nature of such events should be respected”. It also affirms “the invaluable contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in establishing sport as a unique means for the promotion of peace and development”.

“By adopting this resolution, the UN General Assembly is also supporting the overarching mission of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be a unifying force, bringing the entire world together in peaceful competition, with no discrimination whatsoever,” the IOC President said.

He continued: “The IOC is very grateful that this resolution specifically highlights that international sports events should be organised in a spirit of peace, without discrimination of any kind, and in particular that the unifying and conciliative nature of these events should be respected. We can only accomplish this unifying mission if the Olympic and Paralympic Games stand beyond all political, cultural and other differences. This is only possible if the Olympic Games are politically neutral and do not become a tool to achieve political goals. It is therefore with the highest appreciation that we welcome the unequivocal support from the UN Member States for the political neutrality of the IOC and the autonomy of sport, which is expressed in the resolution.”

The resolution was adopted by consensus during the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly. This is highly remarkable given the current political tensions, as it includes both Russia and Ukraine.

The meeting was presided over by UN GA President Csaba Kőrösi, who said in his opening remarks: “If we want to make change, to transform the world, we must include sports and athletes in our work. Where politics and ideology can divide, forcing animosity and separation,  sport brings together people in peaceful competition. It has the ability to break down racial and other barriers, combat discrimination, and defuse conflict. Sport is a platform to combat some of the gravest dangers the world faces today.”

He continued: “I encourage all Member States to preserve the unifying spirit of sport and the Olympic Movement. It is far more promising to the world if nations compete on the fields of sports than on the battlefields. The former makes us more noble and stronger, the latter leaves death and devastation behind. Yes, we are living in a volatile world with deep divisions. Yet, in my view, sport and its organisations should remain inclusive. We should not forget that it is much more desirable to end armed conflicts than to end cooperation. Sport is a solid common base for many of us, but it is also about willpower and perseverance.”

The representative of Monaco, which is co-chairing the Group of Friends of Sport at the United Nations, said in his intervention: “I also wish to acknowledge the role of the International Olympic Committee, Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the Olympism365 strategy and the efforts the IOC has made to become carbon neutral. The goals and values of the IOC and the UN are aligned. This has never been truer than it is today, and the messages of peace and solidarity promoted by IOC President Dr Thomas Bach echo the similar messages from Secretary-General Mr António Guterres. When invited to address the G20 leaders in Bali, President Bach reaffirmed the neutrality of sport and the unifying mission of sport, the IOC, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He also reiterated two key messages: the world needs more solidarity, and we must give peace a chance.”

The resolution is entitled “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development” and supports the overarching mission of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be a unifying force, bringing the word together in peaceful competition with no discrimination whatsoever. It was tabled as part of the discussion around the UN Secretary-General’s biannual report entitled “Sport: Catalyst for a Better, Stronger Recovery”, which provides a review of progress towards the implementation of the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace over the past two years, and outlines how sport can be maximised as an effective tool to rebuild solidarity and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The resolution also:

  • Supports “the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic Movement”.
  • Affirms “the invaluable contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in establishing sport as a unique means for the promotion of peace and development, in particular through the ideal of the Olympic Truce”.
  • Acknowledges the Olympic Charter.
  • Recognises that sport has “the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behaviours, as well as to inspire people, break down racial and political barriers, combat discrimination and defuse conflict”.
  • Encourages “all relevant stakeholders to emphasise and advance the use of sport as a vehicle to foster sustainable development” […] and to facilitate “social inclusion, conflict prevention and peace-building”.
  • Acknowledges the recommendations in the report entitled Harnessing the Power of Sport for Development and Peace: Recommendations to Governments from the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group, and encourages UN Member States to “implement and further develop those recommendations”.
  • Reaffirms and recognises “the growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace”.

The document reflects the widespread recognition of the essential role of sport in today’s society. The UN also recognised sport in its landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an “important enabler”.

A force for good

IOC Member Luis Alberto Moreno, who has been the IOC’s Permanent Observer to the UN since 2019, delivered a speech on behalf of IOC President Thomas Bach.

“Please allow me to express the heartfelt thanks and gratitude of the entire Olympic Movement to the Member States of the United Nations General Assembly for adopting this ‘Sport as an enabler of sustainable development’ resolution,” he said. “The unity and consensus among all UN Member States for this resolution are further encouragement for the entire Olympic and sport community for everything we are doing to make the world a better place through sport.”

The UNGA resolution is the most recent example of numerous declarations in which the international community has thrown its weight behind our unifying mission and political neutrality of sport, Mr Moreno reminded the UN Member States.

At the recent G20 Leaders’ Summit, the Chair of the G20, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, expressed his support for the political neutrality of sport, while at the same time emphasising the unifying power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Support also came from Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, the host of the next Olympic and Paralympic Games, who said: “Sport should not be politicised.” He went on to say: “I do not know in what context the Olympic Games that we will organise in France in 2024 will take place on the geopolitical level. But these major events are meant to allow athletes from all countries, sometimes including countries at war, to live their sport. Also to find, through sport, ways of discussing where people can no longer talk to each other – I think that should be preserved.”

Mr Moreno told the UN General Assembly: “We see how important this support for our mission is at this very moment with the war in Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine blatantly violates the Olympic Truce resolution and with it the Olympic Charter. This gives us all the more reason to promote our unifying mission with our full determination and all our heart. In this context, the wide support for our Olympic peace mission as expressed in the resolution adopted today sends a hopeful message in these dark times. It reflects our conviction that only by coming together, in peace and solidarity, can we overcome the manifold challenges facing humanity at this time.”

He concluded: “In partnership with you, and based on our principles of political neutrality, we will continue to strengthen the contribution of sport, as called for in this resolution. We will take this resolution and your encouragement into full account in our current and future deliberations and actions. And we look forward to reporting back to you at next year’s Session on the progress that we have made.”

Working together

The IOC has held Permanent Observer status since 2009 at the UNGA, which acknowledged “the invaluable contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in establishing sport as a unique means for the promotion of peace and development” in a previous resolution.

Today’s resolution comes against the backdrop of the IOC’s Olympism365 strategy, which has been expressly designed to strengthen the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN SDGs.

The IOC has established a number of new initiatives in recent weeks that aim to fulfil the ambitions set out in the Olympism365 strategy and help to achieve the UN SDGs. These new initiatives include several programmes conceived and delivered in collaboration with the UN and its agencies, such as a new partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to foster healthy and active communities, and Sport against Crime: Outreach, Resilience, Empowerment, a collaboration between the IOC and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) addressing youth crime prevention through sport-based interventions.

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