BANGKOK (ILO News) – "Sport teaches life skills, and remains the best school in life."
H.E. Adolf Ogi, special adviser to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on Sport for Peace and Development, delivered a powerful message during a three-day visit to Thailand this week. The former president of the Swiss Confederation said that the positive lessons and values of sport are essential for life, and should be accessible to all.
"With sport, people can learn to manage victory, overcome defeat, become team players, respect opponents and the rules, and understand that regular training is required for good results. It also teaches young people to know their limits and better understand themselves," Ogi said.
Ogi addressed a meeting at the ILO Wednesday, which included representatives from the Ministry of Labour, the Employers’ Confederation of Thailand, the Labour Congress of Thailand, the Thai Trade Union Congress, the National Congress of Thai Labour, and the State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Confederation. Ogi stressed the important role sports can play in peace and development, education and the workplace.
Participants responded positively, and suggested that sport in the workplace could be used to promote industrial relations, could improve overall health and fitness, and might be used as a tool to combat drug abuse.
Ogi cited the ILO’s involvement in a success story in Mozambique. Through dialogue with the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, employers and trades unions, innovative ways of creating jobs and developing vocational training centers and small enterprises were generated through the development of local small-scale manufacturing of sporting goods.
A United Nations’ (UN) system inter-agency task force is exploring possibilities of forging partnerships and getting commitments for projects involving sports organizations and UN system agencies. There are already 130 projects in place worldwide. Plans are under consideration for developing social and economic activities built upon sporting activities in Afghanistan and East Timor with the assistance of Thailand, following successful discussions earlier in the week with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbaransi, who is tasked with sport issues.
The Magglingen Declaration, developed during 16-18 February at a Sport and Development International Conference in Magglingen, Switzerland, states that sport is a human right, and an ideal learning ground for life’s essential skills. The Declaration says that sports can improve people’s physical and mental health at low cost, helps children to perform better and improves their quality of life, and can heal emotional scars and overcome trauma for people in situations of conflict, crisis or social tension.
The Magglingen Declaration says that local, or ‘grassroots’ sport is the ideal place for bringing together people from all walks of life together, and helps to build societies. It can help overcome barriers of race, religion, gender, disability and social background. It suggests that partnership between the world of sports, the media, and development workers can increase the understanding of the contribution sport can make to sustainable development.
ILO Universitas Programme Coordinator and focal person on Sport and Development Giovanni di Cola accompanied Ogi as part of his delegation, and has been participating in dialogue with governments, employer and worker groups.
Sporting values are in fact embodied within the core values of the United Nations, according to Ogi. "Sport is about developing a sense of community and common purpose. It is about humanity, and together, through sport, we can create a better world."
Deputy prime minister Korn Dabbaransi, who is tasked with sport development, has also been accompanying Ogi during his visit, and treated him to a programme of Thai boxing at Ratchadamnoen stadium earlier this week. Ogi also enjoyed an introduction to Sepak Takraw at the Sports Training Centre for Competition. Dabbaransi is also President of the International Badminton Federation (IBF).