This text is from the UN website 'the UN Millenium Project'.
When relating sports and development, let's think of sport in a broad sense. Incorporated into the definition of 'sport' are all forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well being and social interaction. These include play, recreation, organised casual or competitive sport, and indigenous sports or games. Similarly this toolkit takes a broad definition of poverty, including political, socio-cultural, economic, human and protective dimensions (as proposed by Amartha Sen and adopted in the 2001 OECD/DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction).
Play, especially among children, is any physical activity that is fun and participatory. It is often unstructured and free from adult direction. Recreation is more organised than play and generally entails physically active leisure activities. Sport is more organised again and involves rules or customs and sometimes competition. Importantly, play, physical recreation and sport are all freely chosen activities undertaken for pleasure.
© UNICEF/Korea 040538F-credit Jeremy Horner
The concept of 'sport for all' is central to this understanding of sport. 'Sport for all' initiatives aim to maximise access to and participation in appropriate forms of physical activity. Emphasis is placed on participation and the inclusion of all groups in society, regardless of gender, age, ability or race.
By emphasising 'sport for all,' it becomes evident that elite competitive sport is not the core of the theme 'poverty and sports'. While in some instances such activities may lead to the development of sport, the primary desired outcome is to contribute to overall development via sport-related projects.
Maximising the positive aspects of sport
Many of the core values inherent in sport are compatible with the principles necessary for development and peace, such as fair play, co-operation, sharing and respect. The life skills learned through sport help empower individuals and enhance psychosocial well being, such as increased resiliency, self-esteem and connections with others. These features of sport are beneficial to people of all ages, but they are especially vital to the healthy development of young people.
Sport, however, is a reflection of society. It should be acknowledged that sport, like many aspects of society, simultaneously encompasses some of the worst human traits, including violence, corruption, discrimination, hooliganism, excessive nationalism, cheating and drug abuse. However, these negative aspects of sport by no means outweigh its potential positive benefits. Governments and communities should harness themselves to build on the positive aspects of sport and channel them in pursuit of poverty reduction objectives.
Sport and sustainable human development
Central to notion of poverty alleviation is sustainable human development, which recognises that development is more than economic growth. 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 basic 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 the community". Sport can directly help build these capabilities.
© UNICEF/Korea 040530F-credit Jeremy Horner
Participation in sport has significant physical benefits, but also provides psychosocial benefits, such as fostering social integration and teaching coping mechanisms, as well as psychological benefits, such as reducing depression and improving concentration.
Sport and economic development
While sport is essential to human development, it also contributes to economic development. The economic potential of sport is highlighted by its economic weight, resulting from activities such as the manufacture of sporting goods, sports events, sport-related services and the media. Beyond being an economic force in itself, sport is also a potential catalyst for economic development. A physically active population is a healthier population, improving the productivity of the workforce and increasing economic output. Sport and physical activity also provide one of the most cost-effective forms of preventative medicine, with the potential to dramatically cut health care costs.
Sport adds further to economic development by providing a cheap method of improving employability, especially among young people. By teaching core skills essential for the workplace such as teamwork, leadership, discipline and the value of effort, it provides young people with a constructive activity that helps reduce levels of juvenile crime and anti-social behaviour and, in instances of child labour, provides a meaningful substitute to work.
Sport can also be an engine for local economic development and job creation. Sport programmes provide employment opportunities as well as stimulate demand for goods and services. Sport is also an important source of public and private expenditure, such as that spent on infrastructure, during major events and on consumption. Together, these factors result in sport having considerable potential for initiating economic development.