Sport can educate and empower children facing adversity. It can help children build essential life skills and better futures, while driving sustainable social change in their communities. Sport can improve educational quality, including improved academic achievement, school readiness and attendance.
Sport can transform health practices about disease priorities including HIV, malaria and immunisation. Sport can promote healthy behaviours, increase knowledge and change beliefs about the prevention and treatment of diseases.
Sport can help build peaceful communities by teaching conflict resolution and peace building skills, while helping heal children and communities affected by war.
But, sport can only do this if it is delivered in a safe and supportive environment.
In 2012, at the Beyond Sport Summit in London, a group of organisations working in sport, sport for development, child protection, and international development, came together to explore how to make sport safer for children around the world. This work is supported by the findings of two research reports commissioned separately by UNICEF and the NSPCC, which found that:
- There is a lack of effectively functioning structures, policies and systems at organisational, national and international levels to make sport safer for children
- There is a marked absence of empirical data on violence against children in sport, and a lack of analysis on the most effective ways to prevent violence
- Overall, participating in organised sport is a positive experience for most children and young people, and good practice in sport for development initiatives reflects and embeds children’s right to play safely
- However a negative sporting culture exists, is accepted as ‘the norm’, and is perpetuated by peers, coaches and other adults
As a result of these initial discussions and the supporting research, a coalition of more than 50 organisations are now working together at international, national and local levels to help make sport safer in four key ways:
- Building the capacity of organisations involved in delivering sporting and sport for development activities to children, supporting them to develop systems to make sport safer
- Working alongside Governments and the international bodies responsible for policies in sport, to build a culture of safeguarding within sport itself
- Developing the evidence base in order to identity the most effective ways to make sport safer, in a range of contexts and organisations
- Sharing this learning across the global sporting landscape, to support all organisations with a responsibility for children in sport to improve their safeguards
Fundamental to this work is an international research process, overseen by an independent research team, which allows the members of the coalition to apply new methods, test them out in their local context, and learn about what works and what doesn’t. This learning will then inform the development of a guide which will enable other organisations to benefit from the learning gathered through the process. Ultimately, the coalition aims to make sport safer so that children around the world have a positive and empowering experience of sport.
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