Can sport make a valuable contribution to the post-2015 agenda?

This post is written by Oliver Dudfield, Head of Sport for Development and Peace, Commonwealth Secretariat, and appears on Peace and Sport Watch

The post-2015 development agenda will set out a new plan for global development with the ambition to ‘transform our world by 2030’. Through the post-2015 process the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) Section has been focused on a key question, “What contribution can sport make to sustainable development during the next fifteen years?”

Our team brought together a group of senior policy makers, expert practitioners and academics to consider this issue. The Commonwealth Sport and Post-2015 Forum took place shortly after the Commonwealth Advisory Body of Sport considered the same question at their annual meeting in June. These two events were useful junctures that provided valuable insights as we work towards publishing guidance for Commonwealth member governments on how to maximise the contribution of sport in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.

New approaches for evolving development challenges

Experts supporting the Commonwealth’s work on sport and the post-2015 agenda have highlighted the diversity of contributions to this debate, ranging from measured, evidence-based input to exaggerated declarations positioning sport as a panacea for all manner of complex development challenges. A number have argued that exaggerated submissions negatively impact on the credibility of SDP as a valid development tool.

In contrast, more measured contributions that clearly articulate in which circumstances and why sport-based approaches are effective, have been more useful and contributed to wider debate on the efficacy of traditional development strategies and tools. In this sense SDP shares common ground with other emerging concepts in mainstream development discourse. For example, blending public and private financing sources, the emerging concept of communication for development and supporting entrepreneurship in working to stimulate broader participation in the market. The common ground is that these concepts directly respond to areas where many traditional approaches have not sufficiently adapted to today’s complex and increasingly interconnected world. New, innovative approaches and means of implementation are needed. When done well, and with appropriate safeguards, SDP is such an approach.

Engaging those ‘left behind’

While progress has been made in many Millennium Development Goal areas, for communities and individuals on the fringes of society and outside of formal structures progress has been limited. This issue was central to the UN High Level Panel Report in 2013 that that argued ‘leaving no one behind’ should be one of the key transformative shifts of the post-2015 agenda. The ability to engage those ‘left behind’ and provide alternative spaces for development has been a unique value proposition of sport-based projects and programmes championed by the Commonwealth.

Read the full post at Peace and Sport Watch

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