We reproduce for your reading pleasure the full message by Dr. Ernest Acheampong, a lecturer at the University of Education Winneba, at the historic first-ever International Day of Sports for Development and Peach (IDSDP) 2022 at the Accra Sports stadium on Wednesday, 6th April 2022.

Theme: Securing a Sustainable and Peaceful future for All: The Contribution of Sport
Topic: Using sport as an effective tool to advance human rights and sustainable

FULL TEST BELOW: Speech prepared and delivered by:
Ernest Yeboah Acheampong, PhD
University of Education, Winneba

Background: In 2000, at the Laureus Award, Nelson Mandela made an emphatic statement
about sport; that is “sport is a powerful tool that can transcend barriers where little else can” (Busbee, 2013). This demonstrates how relevant sport is in achieving different organisational goals. For instance, in the Olympic Charter and many declarations and documents of the United Nations and the European Union, sport is a human right (Isidori & Benetton, 2015). This is because everybody has the right to health, social inclusion, and leisure: making international organisations rely on sport as an effective tool that provides healthy practice and playful (ludic) activity for its participants. Thus, represents a vital way to promote the fundamental rights of people as human beings and citizens.

It is no wonder that IDSDP settled on using sport as a driver for their theme “securing
a sustainable and peaceful future for all: the contribution of sport”. For instance, sport has been used to serve as a conduit for promoting educational programmes and sensitization in different ways (e.g., the BWF project). Some schools of thought have advocated for sport as a ‘human right’ because of its relevance in the lives of people across the globe via leisure and recreation among others. Recognising sport as a human right implies that it should be promoted and developed in such a way that people are encouraged to practice it in everyday life in the best possible way. Because of that, the IOC, the United Nations and the European Commission always emphasise how sport can be linked with the level of development of a society or a country. For example, the EU recognises sport as a critical vehicle for providing important economic benefits across its member states and essential tool in EU external relations (Acheampong et al., 2020). That is why EU went on to streamline activities of sports by introducing effective policies to bring sanity and fairness to the sector. What can we say of African Union (AU) even though they appreciate sport as one of the key domains in which African countries have made their mark by rising above the constraints of poverty and discord (AU Commission, 2008)? In the case of EU, it has supported the fast growth of economic activities linked to sport (see Acheampong et al.,2020). Example, in France, sport accounts for 1.77 % of national GDP in 2008 (Andreff, 2010, p. 14) and rose to 1.8 % in 2013 with €38.1 billion (Les chiffres clés du sport, 2017, p. 6).

Apart from the immense economic benefits of sport, it can promote human dignity. This
option is open to everyone who is free. There is no self-respect and no reason for perceiving sport as a human practice without freedom. As contended by Isidori and Benetton (2015), sport is a medium by which we express our humanity, our ambition to be more than a mere material body. Previous studies also argue that sport is an option for human beings as it helps them to express their essence, both an unchallengeable right and privilege of the person. This makes sport a human right and a practice of freedom that political systems have to promote, develop, and protect as a common and shared good of humanity (Schurmann, 2012).

In 2015, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development accepted sport’s role in
advancing social progress in various endeavours. This is how they put it;
Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognise the growing
contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance 2 and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.

Linking with the above statement, it identifies the incredible potential of sport, which the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) has long been bringing people together through sport and supporting sport for peace initiatives, from mega sport events to grassroots activities. These initiatives help sport achieve its fullest potential in realising its Goals.

Therefore, the practice of sport is a human right, which implies that every individual must have the opportunity to participate and to play sport in line with her or his needs. It shows that the practice of sport as a human right cannot operate in isolation from other basic human rights.
This makes the practice of sport important as it can support talent identification and talent
development when individuals are free to play and express their feelings via engagement in
physical activity.

In short, providing opportunities for all and sundry to practice and engage in sporting
activities is their fundamental human right, which must be sustained by every country so that they can also enjoy the socioeconomic benefits associated with sport. This can further support the fast growth of economic activities linked to sport (see Acheampong et al., 2020) when appropriate policies are enacted to promote it. Thus, it is recommended for African governments to emulate the examples of EU by developing and promoting their socioeconomic activities related to sport rather than persistently using it to achieve domestic policies and electoral strategies in proclaiming liberation from former colonial powers (see Acheampong et al., 2020).

What will be the role of stakeholders in achieving this;

The Government: should provide the needed sporting facilities to ensure access to sport by all and sundry through the districts across the nation.
Sports Ministry: need to spell out the general aim of sport for its populace both elites and mass participation of people. Clear outline to promote sport as a human right and how it can be sustained to achieve their set sport objectives.

Community: participation in sporting activities will lead to them accruing the needed socioeconomic benefits that can help promote growth and healthy living in society.
Organisations: can support through providing sporting facilities, sponsors and donations in a form of equipment to help promote mass participation and well-being in the communities.
Individuals: philanthropies can channel some of their resources toward improving sport facilities in the community since sport is a fundamental human right. This can be done through promotion of giving back phenomenon.

NGOs: certain of them can engage in educational and sensitization programmes to promote constant participation in sport and physical activity that may lead to a reduction in ailments, health issues and coronary problems among others.
To conclude, the role of sport in sustainable development is critical in the contemporary and must be treated as a human right. This creates the opportunity to promote the use of sport as an effective tool to advance human right and sustainable development.


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