SEATTLE, Washington — Every year on April 6, the world celebrates the United Nations (U.N.) International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Its a day designed to bring together nations through sport and athletics. The U.N. recognizes “human solidarity” as one of the core pillars of international relations around the world. Further, this day for development and peace highlights the connections formed through sport.
Athletics may not seem directly related to the peace-building agenda of the United Nations; however, the U.N. has long recognized the value of sport in the achievement of its goals. Whether team-oriented or individual, sports promote tolerance, respect and empowerment. Sports also aid in both the prevention of and solution to conflict worldwide. The U.N. praised the International Olympic Committee for being a driver of sustainable and peaceful development, mentioning the standard of the Olympic Truce, a cessation of conflict for the duration of the period surrounding the Olympic games.
History of the Day
U.N. leaders created the U.N. International Day of Sport for Development and Peace in 2013 as a way to spotlight the unity that sports can bring to people globally. The first observance of the day, in April 2014, included 92 countries with various projects that represented 40 different sports, including soccer, basketball and rugby.
The next four years of the celebration saw an increase in the number of countries involved. In fact, those participating more than doubled between 2016 and 2017. The online presence of the U.N. International Day of Sport for Development and Peace grew as well. Further, the website developed into a hotspot for the facts, figures and successes of the day each year. Social media saw the rise of “#WhiteCard,” a digital initiative designed to share one’s commitment to peace and development across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Victories and Successes
In 2019, 136 countries participated in the U.N. International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, with 1,150 sports programs and activities registered throughout the world. #WhiteCard reached more than 98 million people via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, compared to the six million reached by the digital initiative in 2014. In addition to making April 6 a day focused on strengthening areas struggling with poverty and conflict, the U.N. International Day of Sport has spurred sports organizations worldwide to adopt a stronger commitment to bettering the world around them.
For example, after participating in the U.N. International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the organization of World Rugby created its own program called Spirit of Rugby that is inspired by the U.N.’s initiatives. Spirit of Rugby participates each year in the U.N. holiday and works year-round in connecting programs that aim to end poverty, build relationships and foster equality through the sport of rugby.
The U.N. International Day of Sport for Development and Peace has been a grand success with every yearly iteration. The program highlights the need for a global focus on the issues of poverty, inequality and conflict. Undoubtedly, these efforts aid in the betterment of current and future generations, both on and off the field.
– Elizabeth Reece Baker