What is sport for development?

Uniting force

Sport, play and physical education occupy an important role in human development. By their very nature, sport, play and physical education are about participation, inclusion and a sense of belonging. They bring individuals and communities together, highlighting commonalties and bridging cultural and ethnic divides.

Learning and understanding

Sport, play and physical education provide a forum to learn skills such as discipline, confidence and leadership and they convey core principles that are important in a democracy, such as tolerance, cooperation and respect. Sport and physical education teach the fundamental value of effort and how to manage essential steps in life such as victory or defeat. At the same time, physical education classes are often the first ones to be reduced or cancelled in schools in hard economic times, conflict or under the pressure from other academic fields. Grassroots sport-based initiatives receive little support from governments.

Sport for Development

Development is a process of enlarging people's choices and increasing the opportunities available to all members of society. Based on the principles of inclusion, equity and sustainability, emphasis is on the importance of increasing opportunities for the current generation as well as generations to come. The basis human capabilities that are necessary for this, are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of community. Sport can directly help built these capabilities.

Sport and Development

Sport and development is when we use sport as a tool to address challenging developmental issues facing various populations. Development of core sport is a precondition to use sport as a tool for development. Without the pure joy of participating in sport as a foundation, we don't have the tool needed to accomplish development.


This section is based on UN resources. The United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 58/5, entitled "Sport as a means to promote Education, Health, Development and Peace", recognized the positive values of sport and physical education and acknowledged the challenges presented before the world of sport today. 

Background info Sport and development

  • Unicef brochure Sport recreation and play (pdf)
  • Report on the International Year of Sport and Physical Education (pdf)
  • Final Report of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education (pdf)
  • Sport for Development and Peace: From Practice to Policy, Preliminary Report oft the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (pdf)
  • Magglingen Call to Action 2005 (pdf)
  • Magglingen Declaration 2003 (pdf)
  • www.un.org/sport2005
  • Strategy for Norway's culture and sports co-operation with countries in the south, 2005 (pdf)
  • Report for Sports Ministers meeting from Common Wealth Advisory Body on Sport. Contains many case studies illustrating the value of sport around the Globe (pdf)
  • Memorandum on Sport for Development, Dutch Goverment 1998 (word)
  • International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, 1978 (pdf)
  • Sport and development: challenges in a New Arena, Frank van Eekeren, 2006. In: Y. vanden Auweele, C. Malcolm & B. Mulders (eds). Sport and development. (word)