New York City – 22 May 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be addressing you today, as the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. I would like to start by thanking World Sports Values for Peace and Development Committee as they are co-organizing this event.
In particular, I would like to recognize my colleagues, Dr. Haruhisa Handa of the International Sports Promotion Society, Lord Colin Moynihan of the British Olympic Association and Ms. Katherine Marshall of World Faiths Development Dialogue. It is an honor to be speaking amongst all of you so we can speak in one voice in support of sport values and the role these values can play in peace and stability.
You might have, at some point in casual conversation, heard someone question the importance of sports. I know I have. “It’s just a game”, some will say. “Why do people care so much about who wins or loses?”
History reveals to us that sports have been the most popular recreational activity of our oldest ancestors. The very beginnings of international recognition of sports are alleged to have been at the Olympic Games in Greece. These ancient athletic competitions represented victory, politics, and the spread of culture.
Yes, Sports has deep link with ancient Civilizations. The ancient Greek Olympics were more than just a celebration of athletic ability; they were rooted in religion and unified those who were honoring their beliefs.
Since then, the games have expanded worldwide. Now, sports unify those of all faiths, all cultures, and all languages. Today, sports teams transcend physical, cultural and educational borders. Individuals from different nations congregate to play on the same team for the same cause, as we see in contemporary games.
We recognize that sports convey values such as discipline, sacrifice, solidarity, courage and ethics. These are many of the same values that started the very idea of sports and competitive play so many centuries ago. They exist still today, and they are more important than ever—particularly in the resolution of significant global issues.
Many worldwide challenges, especially those related to peace building, global cooperation and diverse communication and dialogue, have direct implications on human development, sustainability, and harmony among the world’s people. As human beings, we are inherently different in many ways. However, we also share similarities—mutual interests, passions and talents that we are often blind to under the glaring dissimilarities which we cannot seem to overcome.
These differences result in disparities—educational, cultural and communicative barriers that separate us and deepen the rifts that keep us from living in harmony. Sports, I feel, have the power to change this.
This is why, as High Representative of the UNAOC, I have recently incorporated “sports” into the key priority areas of our initiative.
It is crucial that we cease to dwell on our differences and instead use our common interests, skills and powers to foster international inspiration and break down the barriers which continue to divide us.
In light of this, the UNAOC has signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) related to sports activities. The first one with the Goals Doha, a major platform for world leaders to create initiative for global progress through sport, where it was agreed to advance the promotion of dialogue, understanding, peace and development through sport. The Second one with the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), whereby it was agreed to carry out joint projects and activities with a view of promoting peace and development through using the power of sports. and that diversity should be utilized as a tool for knowledge-sharing in addressing global issues and setting the stage for the Post 2015 Development Agenda of the United Nations
During the signing ceremony which took place in Doha, Qatar, I stressed that sports, arts and music which are essential elements for development, lie at the heart of the Alliance of Civilizations’ mission that aim at fostering the culture of peace through these collective expressions of human values.
I am proud to announce that the UNAOC will also be partnering with Dr. Handa’s initiative “International Sports Promotion Society” to kick-start this priority area and explore the power of sports as a tool for fostering cross-cultural communication.
After one year of reflexion, my team and I, are very pleased to introduce our new SMARTe Alliance program. It is a reflection of our engagement in the fields of sports, Music, Arts and Entertainment, to explore ways in which the UNAOC and the entertainment industry with the commitment of celebrities can join forces to raise awareness and mobilize public support for Peace and Development. I invite you to look at this program and its strategies which constitute the first step toward a blue print to advance the mission of the UNAOC.
We must look to the world of athleticism to find constructive strategies on how to overcome today’s challenges. I believe that this can be drawn from one of the most prominent principles of modern-day athletics: just and fair play.
Imagine if the entire world was like this. A global community in which anyone could “play” the game; social inclusion would not be determined by size, color, race, language, faith or anything else. One would participate simply because of his or her interest, passion and skill. The love of the game would unify all individuals, all teammates. Nothing else would matter.
We see further evidence of this in the Paralympics. The Paralympic Games offers a unique experience similar to that of the Olympic Games to physically disabled athletes who share the same passion for sports.
Since its inception, other organized games have been formed to accommodate athletes with intellectual and hearing disabilities as well—via the Special Olympics World Games and the Deaflympics. Initiatives such as these unite people with resources and opportunities—they look past the disabilities and connect communities.
This is the meaning of inclusion and this is the dynamic that we must adopt and set forth into other important areas of human development—be it in education, professional opportunities, the delivery of health and human services, sustainability, and even at the political table. It should be our interests, our talents and our passions that unite us. Our natural differences of gender, race, faith or anything else should not determine our level of opportunity.
I applaud all efforts deployed at the last year’s Summit in Tokyo. The ideas of unifying civilizations through sports via the ancient values from the Olympic Truce, empowering young female leaders through the principles of athleticism, combining sports with arts and the media, viewing sports through the lens of entrepreneurship, and promoting the Olympic and Japanese values for positive change and development worldwide are innovative strategies that may just be the answer to building peace.
I want to salute here Yasmine Al-Sharsani, the rising start in Qatar’s national golf team and the fisrt female golfer, winning the Award Qatari Business women 2013.
I would also like to personally recognize each of my three partners for their organizations’ efforts. Dr. Haruhisa Handa and the International Sports Promotion Society seek to assist in all charitable causes across the world of sports. ISPS’ recent mission to develop the sport of blind and disabled golf through the founding of the first Blind Golf Club has played an integral role in furthering this sport and working to make it an official component of the Paralympics.
Lord Colin Moynihan and the British Olympic Association have a vision of “transforming British lives through the power of the Olympic values and success of Team Great Britain”. The BOA works to preserve and promote the values and traditional of the Olympic Movement, in adherence with the Olympic Charter.
Katherine Marshall and the World Faiths Development Dialogue, a non-profit organization focus on religion and global development, promotes exchange between prominent world leaders in the areas of religion and development. It seeks to support forward-thinking dialogue—an objective we all share through our different approaches.
The efforts of my partners bear further testament to the fact that though our missions are diverse, the underlying principles which propel these goals are all interrelated. They are all based in ethics, and they all support the values of respect, excellence and friendship, as set forth by the Olympic Tradition.
Now, I should not let it go unmentioned that though these dynamics and principles I have just mentioned are characteristic to sports overall, not everyone plays by the rules, all of the time.
The idea of “fair play” mentioned above is one that has come under ethical fire on more than one occasion in the realm of sports. The sportsmanship model is founded on the notion that sports foster character development—which, in turn, influences the morality of the surrounding community. With athletes as prominent figures, as role models and heroes, how they compete can have great impact not only on their own moral characters, but also on the ethical behavior of those around them.
Yes, being part of a team means that your fellow mates are your equals, they are your priority. You depend on and protect each other. There must, however, be a stress on ethics which creates a culture where it is okay to help a struggling teammate get the help he or she needs.
Ladies and Gentleman,
I am very proud that my country Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World cup! We are a small country, but we can accomplish great things!
That is what all of us are here to do today. As leaders, academics, politicians, professionals and athletes, it is our responsibility to share and explore the values that sports—our mutual interest—can advance. We must adhere to the aforementioned three values of respect, excellence and friendship to address the issues related to human development and youth.
This can be done by creating mentorship between you—the athletes and prominent sports figures—and the youth. THIS is the positive influence that needs to be emphasized, not the negative ones
“It starts with complete command of the fundamentals. Then it takes desire, determination, discipline and self-sacrifice. And finally, it takes a great deal of love, fairness and respect for your fellow man. Put all of these together—and even if you don’t win, how can you lose?”
I wish you all along with our young athletes a very successful summit!