The Power of Sport

Sport is an essential form of human expression, which can enhance human dignity and strengthen societies as a whole. This is why sport is so important for UNESCO’s work to build peace and to lay the foundations for sustainable development.

  Sport embodies the best of the values all women and men share – let us build on this power, to craft a better future for all

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General

On this first International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, we celebrate the power of sport to bring people of different cultures together around shared values, we raise a flag for the importance of sport to healthy lives and resilient societies, and we highlight sport’s key role in for promoting gender equality and empowering young people.

These were the messages of the 5th UNESCO World Sports Ministers Conference, held last May in Berlin, Germany -- which underlined sport as a force for social inclusion and as a platform for teaching the skills and values all societies need today, to overcome inequalities and to challenge all forms of discrimination on the basis of equality and fair play.

Sport has never been so global and mediatised, but we must support every society in making the most of sport as a building block for peace and sustainable development. This requires effective policies and programmes, including from Governments, to create the conditions for sport and physical education for all.

© Flickr / Passion Leica

UNESCO is acting across the board to harness the power of sport – by developing innovative approaches to education, by fostering intercultural dialogue, by promoting gender equality, and by working to engage marginalized groups on a common playing field.

Sport embodies the best of the values all women and men share – let us build on this power, to craft a better future for all. This is UNESCO’s message on the first International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.  

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace 2014
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Celebrating 6 April ...

In August 2013, the UN General Assembly made the decision to proclaim 6 April as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. (A/RES/67/296)

Why Sport?

Sport has historically played an important role in all societies, be it in the form of competitive sport, physical activity or play. But one may wonder: what does sport have to do with the United Nations? In fact, sport presents a natural partnership for the United Nations (UN) system, including UNESCO:

  • sport and play are human rights that must be respected and enforced worldwide;
  • sport has been increasingly recognized and used as a low-cost and high-impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts, not only by the UN system but also by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments, development agencies, sports federations, armed forces and the media.

Sport can no longer be considered a luxury within any society but is rather an important investment in the present and future, particularly in developing countries.


  • Hold a match, tournament or games to raise awareness among participants and the public about the formative values of sport ...

  • Rally your network around a group action representing 6 April (parade, run for peace, flash mob, photo or video conveying a particular message etc.).

  • Bring together political leaders, sports personalities, specialists or influential people from your community to debate and discuss the impact of sport on society.

  • Give free rein to your imagination and demonstrate how sport can be a tool for peace and development (exhibition, dance, drawing etc.).


Did you know?

  • In 2008, 1.533 billion people were insufficiently physically active.

  • Physically active children are 15% more likely to go to college.

  • Physically active children are less likely to smoke, become pregnant, engage in risky sexual behavior, or use drugs.

  • Kids of active moms are 2x as likely to be active.

  • Physical inactivity is responsible for 6% of coronary heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, and 10% of breast and colon cancers.

  • Sport mobilizes large numbers of committed volunteers, developing skills and networks that are transferable to other areas of social engagement.

  • Investment in sport (time, equipment, facilities) yields three times more than investment in medical costs savings.

  • It is estimated that non-communicable diseases (NCDs), connected to physical inactivity, will be the major cause of death in Africa by 2030.