Protect spaces for sport and promote physical activity, says report on global goals

(Photo courtesy the Commonwealth Secretariat)

April 6, 2017: Governments and local authorities that invest in sport can help to reduce spiralling health costs and promote education, social cohesion and gender equality, according to a new report from the Commonwealth.

Protecting green spaces in towns and cities, ring-fencing school budgets for physical education, and empowering women and girls through sport, are among a set of policy prescriptions in the report published today, on International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

The Commonwealth Secretariat guidebook, Enhancing the Contribution of Sport to the Sustainable Development Goals, proposes a raft of interventions to help countries achieve global targets in health, education, social inclusivity and gender equality by using sport as a tool.

One of the areas identified where sport can make a big impact is in improving public health. Physical inactivity causes more than three million deaths per year globally, and accounts for between 1-4 percent of all healthcare costs. But despite the benefits of adopting an active lifestyle, a fifth of men and a quarter of women do not meet World Health Organization minimum guidelines for physical activity, which say adults should do 75 to 150 minutes of exercise a week.

The publication provides a framework for using sport to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of global targets agreed by 194 governments at the United Nations in September 2015. The 17 SDGs include targets on health, education, gender equality, economic growth and employment, human settlements, justice and inclusivity.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s recommendations include:

  • Ring-fencing education budgets for school sports and physical education
  • Regulating to preserve green spaces in towns and cities for sports and physical activity in towns and cities
  • Funding new sports facilities through private and civil society partnerships
  • Creating small ‘pocket parks’ for dance and informal exercise
  • Ensuring sport facilities are safe and accessible for women and girls
  • Training the sport workforce, including coaches and volunteers, to help people from diverse backgrounds become physically active
  • Developing initiatives to boost sport-based entrepreneurship and enterprise
  • Implementing measures to safeguard all children participating in sport

The report offers a stark warning that the benefits of investing in sport can be eroded if corruption and exploitation in sport is allowed to persist. It recommends that sports organisations are compelled to meet international standards on good governance and child safeguarding as a requirement of receiving any public funds.

The guidebook was developed with researchers from Durham University in the UK, Dr Iain Lindsey and Professor Tony Chapman, along with sports experts and organisations, and policy-makers from government ministries in Australia, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

It follows the historic commitment made by more than 30 governments at the Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting in August 2016 to ensure that national sports policies are aligned to deliver the SDGs.

Head of Sport for Development and Peace at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Oliver Dudfield, said: “By increasing access to and participation in quality and inclusive sport we can improve people’s health and education, break down social barriers and ultimately save public money.

“This guidebook presents wide-ranging policy options for governments where there is evidence that sport and physical activity can help to deliver sustainable development. The recommendations we are putting forward aim to deliver on the promise of sport as a potential development tool.”

The publication will be formally launched on International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April 2017 by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, at a panel debate at Australia House in London.

Panellists for the 2nd Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development included UK Minister of State for International Development Lord Bates, Commonwealth Games Federation Vice President for the Americas K.A. Juman-Yassin, Director of the University of Johannesburg’s Olympic Studies Centre Professor Cora Burnett, and Ugandan Netball Team Captain Peace Proscovia.



For further information please contact:

The Commonwealth Secretariat

+44 (0) 20 7747 6379

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