Today, the UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke, concluded a 5-day mission to Israel and Palestine which was aimed at promoting the use of sport as a tool to advance education, social inclusion, mutual understanding and peace.
On 11 October, the Special Adviser gave a speech on “Sport for Peace and Conflict Resolution” in a workshop hosted by the Palestinian National Olympic Committee in Ramallah. The workshop engaged fruitful discussion on the realities and ambitions of Palestinian sport. Giving several examples on how sport can promote peace and empower youth, the Special Adviser mentioned the active role of his Office, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) in harnessing sport as a tool for peaceful resolutions to conflicts.
On this mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Mr. Lemke visited some of the initiatives that have helped develop the community through sport, such as the Diyar Consortium’s Women Football Team. The Diyar Women Sports Centre, supported by UNOSDP, is a facility that provides women in Palestine with the necessary skills and education required for them to enter the employment market. Shortages of qualified female professionals such as trainers, team coaches, referees and dieticians make these participants valuable to their societies. As part of this visit, the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Minister of Labour Mamoun A. Abushahla, and the Minister of Education and Higher Education Sabri Saidam. Mr Lemke discussed with them the importance of using sport as a tool for communication, education, vocational training and conflict resolution in the context of the development and peace-building efforts in the region.
Mr. Lemke has also highlighted the role of the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) in empowering youth sport leaders from all around the world to promote peace. The YLP has welcomed 20 Israeli and Palestinian participants to UNOSDP camps in recent years and will continue to work as a bridge for communication between the two sides. “Sport allows people to forget their differences and united towards one common goal” noted Mr. Lemke.
On 14 October, Mr. Lemke undertook field visit with the organization, Ultimate Peace in Tel Aviv. Since 2009, the initiative gives children from the Israeli Jewish and Arab community, as well as Palestinians, a chance to build friendships by playing ultimate Frisbee. The programs are designed to focus on altering mindsets and perceptions by providing shared experiences in which recreational enjoyment, personal reflection, culturing sharing, and experiential learning are emphasized and balanced.
The Special Adviser took the opportunity, to urge all sport actors in the region to continue the great work already in progress in the field. “I wish that the many exemplary organizations, projects and individuals from Israel and the Palestinian Territories continue to be supported and recognized for their outstanding work in using sport to foster friendship, understanding and peace in the region.” said Mr. Lemke, “Sport is a means to contribute to achieving peace, but sport alone will not solve the conflict. A political and diplomatic solution is needed now more than ever”.
Photo © Ultimate Peace