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Sport and Sustainable Development Goals

After fifteen years of progress in the unprecedented Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world turned its attention to the successor Sustainable Development Goals in a period of transition to the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In a time of recapitulation of achievements and pending business around the eight MDGs (poverty eradication, universal primary education, gender equality, child mortality reduction, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, environment sustainability, and global partnership for development), the international community, led by the United Nations, undertook a thorough consultation process with all spheres of society and agreed on the following 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be pursued in the next 15 years. With the overarching aspiration of getting people and planet closer together and leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a unique opportunity to inspire global action for development worldwide, including the field of Sport for Development and Peace.
Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives. Since the inception of the MDGs in 2000, sport has played a vital role in enhancing each of the eight goals, a fact which has been recognized in numerous Resolutions of the General Assembly. In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sport’s role for social progress is further acknowledged:
“Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”
Driven by this milestone recognition and based on the past success of Sport for Development and Peace activities and programmes across multiple sectors, sport will continue to advance global development assisting in the work towards, and the realization of, the SDGs. The United Nations envisages sport to do so as an important and powerful tool with the potential to tackle challenges entailed in each of the 17 SDGs.
Click on a goal to learn about specific targets related to it. 
Sport can be used as a means to teach and practice transferable social, employment and life skills that can lead to well-being, economic participation, productivity and resilience.                                                                               
Sport programmes associated to nutrition and agriculture can be a suitable complement for food programmes tackling hunger and education on this subject. Beneficiaries can be taught about and encouraged to engage in sustainable food production and balanced diets.
Physical activity and sport are key components of active lifestyles and mental well-being; they can contribute to prevent risks such as non-communicable diseases, as well as serve as a tool for education on sexual, reproductive and other health issues.
Physical education and sport activities can enhance enrolment in formal education systems, school attendance and academic performance among school-aged population. Sport-based programmes can also offer a platform for learning opportunities beyond primary and secondary schooling, and for the acquisition of skills transferable to the workplace and to social life.
Gender equality and changes in norms and attitudes towards it can be promoted in sport contexts, where sport-based initiatives and programmes have the potential to equip women and girls with knowledge and skills that allow them to progress in society.
Sport can be an effective educational platform for disseminating messages on water sanitation requirements and management. Sport-based programmes can target improvements in water availability by associating its activities and intended outcomes with this subject.
Sport programmes and activities can support initiatives aiming at the development of energy provision systems and access to them, being used as forums for discussion and promotion of energy efficiency.
Production, labour market and vocational training in the sport industry and business offer opportunities for employability enhancement and employment, including those for vulnerable groups such as women and people with disabilities. In this framework, sport motivates mobilisation of the wider community and growth of economic activities associated with sports.
Resilience and industrialisation needs can benefit from sport-based initiatives that aim at development goals in this context, such as post-disaster reconstruction of facilities for sport and leisure. Sport has been recognised and effectively used as an innovative means to promote development and peace complementing other conventional tools in development efforts.
Development of and through sport in developing countries can contribute to reduce the gap between them and more developed countries. The popularity and positive attitude towards sport make it a suitable tool for tackling inequality in areas and population that are difficult to reach.
Inclusion in and through sport is one of the main targets of Sport for Development and Peace. Accessible sport facilities and services contribute to the advancement of this goal and can provide examples of good practice for other kinds of settlements to adopt inclusive and resilient approaches.
The incorporation of sustainable standards in the production and provision of sport products can contribute to the wider sustainable approach of consumption and production patterns in other industries. Messages and campaigns with this purpose can be disseminated through sport products, services and events.
Sport activities, programmes and events, in particular mega sport events that entail tourism, can incorporate elements aiming at raising awareness and knowledge of environmental sustainability as well as promote and implement positive responses to climate challenges. It can also facilitate the post-disaster recovery process by instilling a sense of identity and belonging among victims.
The connection of certain sporting activities to oceans and seas, such as water sports, can be utilised to advocate for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources within sports and beyond.
Sport offers a platform for educating and advocating for the preservation of terrestrial ecosystems. Outdoor sport can incorporate safeguards, activities and messages promoting the sustainable and environmentally respectful use of terrestrial resources.
Sport can help to rebuild post-conflict societies, reunite divided communities, and recover from war-related trauma. In such processes, sport programmes and sporting events can reach out socially excluded groups providing them with scenarios for interaction and serving as a communication platform for the promotion of mutual understanding, reconciliation, unity, and a culture of peace.
Sport serves as an effective vehicle for translating targeted development objectives into reality and achieving tangible progress towards them. During such action implementation and beyond, the world of sport, from the grassroots to the professional level, from the private to the public sector, can provide powerful networks of partners and stakeholders of a diverse nature with a common commitment to the use of sport for sustainable development.
* Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change
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