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Leaders in sport and development set to convene in the face of the refugee crisis

Leaders in sport and development set to convene in the face of the refugee crisis

Beyond Sport, with the support of the Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF, has launched a new initiative that will assess how sport can be used to support refugees and displaced people.

In the midst of one of the largest global humanitarian crises in history in which conflicts in several countries have affected 230 million children over the last few years, major stakeholders in sport are uniting with the development community to identify how sport can be better used to support the millions of refugees and displaced people being forced to flee their homes across the world.

Beyond Sport, the global convener around sport and social change, will launch the first-ever Refugee Sport Initiative at its annual global Summit on 21st October.

With the support of DFID, UNICEF and other major contributors the initiative will gather decision-makers from development and inter-governmental entities, businesses, sports clubs and governing bodies, and grassroots organisations working with refugees and displaced people to assess, recommend, and commit to taking action through sport in camps for refugees and internally displaced people.

Currently there are over 19 million refugees and 38 million internally displaced people globally. Nearly half of these are children. The knock on effects from crises in the Middle East and Africa have been recently highlighted as people fleeing conflict continue to seek refuge in Europe.

Displaced people face challenges to meet basic needs, recover from their ordeal, and rebuild their lives, often in a complex and changing camp environment. Fear, frustration, grief, anger and guilt are often experienced, compounded by uncertainty over their future and a lack of community. Sport and games can play a valuable part in helping children whose worlds have been turned upside down by conflict to work through the challenges and distress they have experienced and continue to develop life skills, coping mechanisms and resilience. Every child has the right to play and through this initiative, more refugee children will have that right restored to them.

Many agencies work together on the ground to deliver water, food, sanitation, safe shelter, education, healthcare, psychosocial support and family reunification services. While sport is often used in the existing response, there is no such coordinated effort between UN organisations and NGOs.

UNICEF UK Executive Director David Bull recognises the vital role that sport can play in helping to fulfil children’s rights. “When conflict strikes, children are hardest hit and face terrible dangers. Many lose their families, their homes and their schools. When a child’s life is turned upside down, sport can be a vital and familiar comfort in an otherwise distressing world.”

At the Beyond Sport Summit, the Initiative’s initial working group of decision-makers will hear from courageous grassroots organisations using sport on the ground to support refugees and displaced people, including children, such as Change Foundation in the UK and Europe, Spirit of Soccer in Iraq, and Capoeira4Refugees in Syria and the Palestinian Territories.

The group will then work on recommendations and actions to be taken forward, which will be presented at the close of the Summit to over 500 attendees.

“An inherent attribute of sport is the potential to create a sense of community where foundations and roots have been ripped away. For refugees, sport can promote normalcy and a sense of belonging that is too often absent in camp settings,” Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport, said.

“This initiative will not only bring relevant people together to find better ways to utilise the power of sport within this issue, but also to educate the sport industry about how it can make an impact.”

Beyond Sport has a proven track record in facilitating change in the sector. In 2012, Beyond Sport convened a meeting of more than 40 organisations from the worlds of sport and international development to explore how to make sport safer for children, which resulted in UNICEF leading a group of experts to develop the International Safeguards for Children in Sport.

The Beyond Sport Summit 2015 takes place 19-21 October in London and is supported by its global partners, Barclays, TIME and UNICEF.

More information can be found at

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