History of the field


The history of sport (sport meaning games and competitions for specific reasons or just for recreation and entertainment) is probably as old as the existence of people as purposive beings. Sport has been a useful way for people to increase their mastery of nature and the environment.

Individual sports, such as wrestling and archery, have been practiced worldwide since ancient times, and many modern sports can trace their roots back to the local games of the rural working class.

The UNESCO's Charter of Physical Education and Sport (1978) indicates physical education and sport as "a human right for all" and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) guarantees "the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities".

The Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sport has been involved in sport projects in Africa for more than 20 years, since the first startup of the "sport for all" project in Tanzania 1984, and have learned a number of valuable lessons in terms of partnership and issues around ownership and sustainability.

The IOC Sport for All Commission was created in 1985 in order to add grass root sport to the aims and tasks of the Olympic Movement. The Commission has the responsibility to encourage and support the development of the sport activities through all generations. First of all this means that we have to disseminate Sport for All as a global human right in all societies.

Sport and development, the purposeful use of sport to achieve a different goal can also be traced back for decades and centuries.

The period from the late 1980s till today has been a constant increase in S&D organization, and humanitarian organizations using sport as a tool to reach their developmental goals.

UN task force

In July 2002, the United Nations Secretary-General convened an Inter-Agency Task Force to review activities involving sport within the United Nations system. The Task Force, cochaired by Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF and Adolf Ogi, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, brought together 10 UN organizations with significant experience of using sport in their work.

Millenium Development Goals & Sport

Several months later, the Task Force produced Sport for Development and Peace: Towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (pdf). The comprehensive report concluded that sport - from play and physical activity to organized and competitive sport - is a powerful and cost-effective way to advance the Millennium Development Goals, the agenda agreed to by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit, and 'A World Fit for Children'.

Next Step and Magglingen

In 2003, the Governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands hosted global conferences on sports for development. Both the Swiss conference, which led to the Magglingen Declaration (pdf), and the 'Next Step' conference in the Netherlands brought together for the first time sports, government, UN and non-governmental organization partners from around the world (pdf). That same year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the role of sport as a means to promote health, education, development and peace, proclaiming 2005 as the International Year for Sport and Physical Education. As a result of increased interest in sport and development, the year 2005 was proclaimed the International Year of Sport and Physical Education (Report on IYSPE 2005) and an International Working Group on Sport for Development and Peace (Report by SDPIWG, website) was launched. Since than many conferences, programmes and projects have been initiated. For up to date information go to www.sportanddev.org

Next Steps?

We challenge all with ambitions and aspirations in the field to come up with new activities, partnerships, networks and events. Mail ideas to: pelle@sportconsult.info or h.van.kampen@ncdo.nl


Reports about the UN millenium Development Project

Concerning UN documents: © Copyright, United Nations. All rights reserved. For up to date info:



Investing in Development

Investing in Development brings together the core recommendations of the UN Millennium Project. By outlining practical investment strategies and approaches to financing them, the report presents an operational framework that will allow even the poorest countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Report: Investing in Development. A practical plan to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (pdf)

In larger freedom

In this report (pdf) the Secretary-General put forward a comprehensive deal for tackling poverty, security threats and human rights abuses while overhauling the United Nations through a set of recommendations slated for action by national leaders when they gather to mark the world body's sixtieth anniversary later this year.


  • Unicef brochure Sport Recreation and play (pdf)

>>> read more in the subsection UN year of Sport and PE

Michael Kleiner, United Nations

Michael Kleiner, United Nations

Michael Kleiner, United Nations