This year, Peace and Sport will be celebrating its tenth birthday, and to do so, we will be holding an anniversary edition of our Peace and Sport International Forum.
During the decade in which we have been active, we have dedicated ourselves to promoting the peace through sport movement, and this year has been no different. We have grown from strength to strength, and as we now start to look ahead to the next ten years, it is clear that we must push even harder to attain our goals.
Much has been achieved in the previous ten years, and we hope that our work has brought light to many who were once without it. We have worked hard to increase awareness and understanding among political leaders, Governments and organisations around the world, and we have shared with them just how easy it is for them to enact change.
We have held, annually, our #WhiteCard campaign, which this year reached more than 43 million people worldwide. Centred on April 6, the United Nations International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), the campaign asks people from all walks of life to snap a selfie with a White Card and share it on social media. Through the use of a universal #WhiteCard we have been able to turn millions of people into ambassadors for peace.
This year, our april6.org online platform, which collates the work being done around the world into one, online database, has seen more than 630 projects set up across more than 150 nations. Ranging from promoting inter-cultural dialogue in conflict areas to building social cohesion in underprivileged urban places, Peace and Sport has been there to ensure that sport has helped to push through social change.
While raising awareness has been important, we have also spent the last ten years facilitating real change through our field and project work. As part of our "Act for What Matters" scheme, we have identified, supported and partnered with community-based projects that use sport as a tool for peace.
One example, Futbol con Corazon, works in 35 communities throughout Colombia and uses soccer as a tool to help boys, girls and young adults make better life decisions. Elsewhere, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another Act for What Matters partner, Promo Jeune Basket, promote positive youth development through high-quality instruction, top-tier academic training and an integrated life-skills programme that encourages young members to focus on the future, avoid risk and engage in the world with a global perspective.
One project that has sat particularly close to our hearts over the last ten years has been the Friendship Games, of which we have organized eight editions. The Games are a celebration of sport set in the borderlands between Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo that bring together both children and athletes from the three war-torn nations and promotes stronger inter-cultural dialogue between them.
This year, we were joined by Jean-Baptiste Alaize, a Burundian-born French Paralympian whose injuries were sustained during the Burundi Civil War, and it was moving to see him interact with and inspire children whose situation was not all that different from his own.
During our many field projects, we have tried to promote a new concept we coined as "Sport Simple Solutions". The initiative promotes the values of peace by encouraging the use of basic or handmade sports equipment in communities often unable to afford expensive or advanced apparatus. This summer, during the Friendship Games, we used old tires, foam and rope to make a "Sport Simple" boxing ring and we aim to show that sport can be made simple for all wherever they are in the world.
We've also deployed our famous Champions for Peace around the world, using their positions as high-level athletes to participate in field projects, and inspire and spread our shared message of peace to all corners. Tour de France winner Chris Froome, Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet, Rio 2016’s Refugee Team Chef de Mission Tegla Loroupe and a host of other stars have all publicly spoken about Peace and Sport, and their presence over the decade has both inspired and informed.
While our campaigns have helped to raise the profile of the peace-through-sport movement, and our events have given a platform for real change, there have been some special moments of diplomacy that will live long in the memory.
In 2007, Peace and Sport helped to facilitate a meeting between representatives of Israel and Palestine, which culminated in the two ambassadors shaking hands and agreeing on the power of sport for good.
In 2011 in Qatar, the Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup brought together men’s and women’s doubles matches with mixed-nation teams, pairing teams from North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Russia, USA and France in order to foster communication and political reconciliation between them.
Elsewhere, we have helped to bring together athletes from Pakistan and India in 2011, Russia and Ukraine in 2016, and most notably, the women’s ice hockey teams of North and South Korea in 2017.
On top of this, we have also been working in partnership with the International University of Monaco in setting up a Masters degree in Sustainable Peace Through Sport. This multidisciplinary programme seeks to educate and train an elite group able to harness the potential of sport as a strategic tool for building and promoting peace across the globe.
Amid all this, the Peace and Sport International Forum has been our constant. A moment to bring together all who have helped us throughout the years, to share and learn, discuss and debate. This year, our theme will be Sport Innovation for Social Transformation, and will aim to focus on the use of sports innovation (e.g Sport Simple) to tackle today’s most pressing societal problems and future global challenges.
Of course, the Forum this December will be a cause for celebration - an opportunity to look back on all that we have achieved in the past ten years and in this record-breaking 2017 - but we must also use it to look towards the next ten years as well.
As we welcome delegates, including International Sporting Federations, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Head of States, athletes, NGOs and academics, from around the world to Monaco, we must talk with more focus than before, and with more urgency than ever.
The world has faced unprecedented challenges in recent years, challenges that could not have been predicted, and the promotion of peace is now more important than ever.
That is why I will use the Forum to call for even more engagement, influence and action from the sports world, policy makers and the peace movement. The sports industry must use its position to act as a pioneer for peace, to drive change and push for action in all corners of the world. It promises to be a special event, but one that delivers real change for all.
I look forward to seeing you all there!