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Beyond Sport Partners with UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency on The Sport Together Fund

June 20, 2022

In May, Beyond Sport created The Sport Together Fund (STF) to support sport-based development organisations that are rising to the challenge when the communities they serve face conflict, harm and insecurity.

Today, as the world celebrates World Refugee Day and reiterates that everyone has a right to seek safety - whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee – we are pleased to announce our partnership with UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency on the Fund.

The issues that displaced people face vary with context and cause. However, people who have been forced from their home or community, whatever the cause, experience loss; whether this is the loss of a sense of safety, loss of their homes and communities or the loss of loved ones. For some, sport can be transformational, providing opportunities for most in need to positively change their lives and help to bring them closer to their new communities and countries.

From immediate response to longer term recovery and reconstruction, sport does and can help displaced people, especially children, overcome trauma and develop resilience. As individuals and communities seek immediate humanitarian aid by way of funding and supplies, community-based organisations that are leveraging the power of sport to create safe havens for refugees, be those en route, or in destination within new communities, will continue to play an increased role in integrating and supporting refugees.

“The Sport Together Fund offers the industry an opportunity to connect to a pressing cause. We know how effective sport is in the refugee setting, and sport used with intention can offer hope, transform lives and rebuild communities from the roots up," said Nick Keller, Beyond Sport Founder and President. "Our partnership with UNHCR demonstrates that if we are going to make change happen then long term and ambitious partnership between sectors is vital.”

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The 2018 Global Compact on Refugees reinforced the need for global solidarity and cooperation on refugee issues. It specifically notes the “important role that sport […] can play in social development, inclusion, cohesion, and well-being, particularly for refugee children […] and youth, as well as older persons and persons with disabilities” (paragraph 44).

This underpinned UNHCR’s work on sport and led to the agency putting together a coalition of 80 organisations committed to building a better world for refugees through sport, pledging to support increased access and participation at all levels for displaced communities. Currently, it is working to empower colleagues and partners alike to implement sports programmes for displaced people and advocate for how sport can make a difference, including through this partnership and other recent agreements with the Olympic Refuge Foundation and UEFA.

‘It’s brilliant to be working with Beyond Sport on this initiative. Their network is second to none and this collaboration should help us provide more refugee children and youth with the opportunity to benefit from positive sport activities,” stated Nick Sore, Senior Refugee Sports Coordinator at UNHCR.

UNHCR has also been working with partners to develop and implement a “Sport for Protection” approach, which builds on the unique ability of sport to engage displaced young people actively and meaningfully. The approach works to increase social inclusion and social cohesion and improve psychosocial well-being through fun, safe and structured sport activities that contribute to their development and learning. As UNHCR shared, for children and youth who have been forced to flee conflict sport is not just a fun activity, it is an opportunity to build new relationships, to learn and grow. 

As the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution reached 100 million for the first time, the outlet that sport provides to people forced to flee is needed more than ever. Just last week, UNHCR reported that the speed and scale of forced displacement is outpacing solutions for refugees.

STF will leverage the platform and mechanism of sport to support the needs of refugees and displaced peoples - starting with Ukraine. It has been reported that the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused one of the fastest and largest forced displacement crises since World War II.

 

With strategic input from UNHCR and guided by an expert advisory panel skilled in trauma and health, conflict resolution, youth sports and social and community cohesion, the STF will focus on culturally appropriate, context specific, well thought-through sport programmes that can:

• Engender a sense of identity and belonging
• Embed qualities such as tolerance, justice, respect, humility
• Encourage equality and humanization
• Support health and education outreach activities
• Contribute to psychosocial support efforts
• Provide routes into employment and education
• Help create a sense of normalcy
• Improve people’s ability to cope with trauma and immense change
• Bring native and migrant communities together

Beyond Sport is extremely grateful to our initial Fund supporters whose donations will help us to direct resources to sport-based development organisations that are engaged in on the ground humanitarian aid efforts. Thank you to the Sport Industry Group, Octagon UK, Cake, InCrowd Sports, Tour of Britain, The Women's Tour, thinkBeyond, Verve and Nimble Productions.

Going forward, the Sport Together Fund will scale up its efforts in response to emerging situations where sport can play its greatest role and will advocate to bring the sport sector together to provide increased funding and resources to enable greater collective impact. To learn how you can become a partner, contact Carly Heinz, Associate Director of Development at [email protected]. You can also click here to donate.

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Rebuilding Community In Times of Crisis