Sport for cooperation

Cristian González

11 November, 2009

In recent years there are more and more cooperation projects that use sport as a very valid tool to achieve development goals in Third World countries. Physical activity is a pretext that allows cooperators to approach these societies naturally.

According to article 31 of the declaration of human rights, children have the right to play and recreation. For this reason, initiatives from the United Nations (UN) are being promoted to ensure this right of children. «The UNESCO initiative on sports promotion is part of the field of education and, in fact, many education ministers are also the leaders in sports», explains Miquel Àngel Essomba, director of the Center UNESCO of Catalonia. In this sense, we must point out the conclusions of the November International Conference of Education in the 2008, in which one of the working groups emphasized the importance of the role of sport in favor of social inclusion. Sports practice is conceived as a place to promote teamwork, health and personal improvement.

Considering that Third World countries use very little resources for sports promotion for obvious reasons, there are four major problems. First of all, sport, in these countries, is closely linked to men and women being discriminated against, so it is necessary to work first for gender parity.

The second obstacle is class differences, that is, sports practice is very different between rich and poor. Those who are wealthy enjoy all the facilities, while the poor do not have the basic infrastructure.

Third, sports practice plays a secondary role in these countries where a traditional academic curriculum still prevails. Sport is seen as a minor issue in the training of children and young people.

Finally, in fourth place, sport is conceived as an activity exclusively for young people and physical activity among adults is not promoted. In fact, most countries, especially in Africa, the sports department is accustomed to say Youth and Sports Department, and this already indicates the orientation of sport towards younger people. According to Miquel Àngel Essomba, "these four problems are reproduced in all underdeveloped countries, both in Africa and in Latin America".

Governmental scope
UNICEF, an organization of the United Nations, uses sport in two different lines of action. On the one hand, through regional, state and international alliances with the aim of campaigning for communication, awareness raising and fundraising. The other line of work is to use sport as a further tool to guarantee development. In this field, actions are carried out in which sport is the pretext for bringing children to their true intentions. "An example would be to organize a football tournament in which there is then a vaccination campaign or take action to prevent HIV or AIDS," explains Maria Zapata, head of Sport for Development at UNICEF Catalunya.

Another task in which sport is used effectively by UNICEF is in the refugee camps. Maria Zapata acknowledges that sport is useful because "children regain normality a little," adding that "it is curious that there is never what is called a recreational kit, a kind of bag that contains material for practicing various sports where there are networks, soccer balls, pockets and many more things ».

At the moment, UNICEF has several open international alliances. "We have agreements with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the NBA, FIFA and FIBA, the European Swimming League, and participate in the organization of the Champions For Africa, a solidarity event in which every year the stars of the The world of soccer plays a charity whose collection is destined for humanitarian purposes, "says Maria Zapata. One of the most committed sports entities with UNICEF is the IOC, with whom he has an agreement with 2012 to work to defend the rights of children during the celebration of the Olympic Games, through the promotion of the Youth Camp that UNICEF places In the Olympic village during the days that the Olympics are celebrated. «At the Games in Beijing we did workshops in which we talked to young people from different countries about AIDS, gender parity, survival and many other issues that we consider vital in order to train them, because when they return to their respective countries they can explain to their relatives and friends all those knowledge they have acquired ", explains Maria Zapata.

Apart from the collaborations that UNICEF has developed with international sports entities, it has also structured a strategy based on collaborations with clubs Football as powerful as Manchester United and with athletes as popular as David Beckham, Francesco Totti, Samuel Eto'o, Pau Gasol and Frédéric Kanouté. «Its task is to make UNICEF speakers aware of the society and ask for financial contributions to finance our projects», clarifies Maria Zapata.

Although the potential of sport and its environment is recognized by those responsible for UNICEF, they also recognize that it is sometimes difficult to start these collaborations because, in the words of Maria Zapata, "we can often not talk directly with the clubs But these depend on the sponsors, the mass of partners or shareholders and even third-party companies that help to finance them ».

Claror Foundation
The private sector also offers numerous grants to finance cooperation and development projects. There are many foundations that are in charge of this task, from which many NGOs take advantage. An example is that of the Claror Foundation, which organizes the Actua Contest biannually, which distributes a total of forty thousand euros distributed among the winning projects in two years. Although projects that work in Catalonia can be opted for, there are also many that are developed in Third World countries. The Casa Gonfreville projects, promoted by the Akawaba Foundation, and the TAFAHUM / ENTESA project, promoted by the Association for Intercultural and Social Mediation with Immigrants, have recently been financed.

Tafahum / Entesa Project
«Since its founding in AMISI, we have always used sport as a very powerful tool to promote a series of values ​​among the people we work with, whether in our work in penitentiary centers or in the fields of work we have in Morocco in the cities of Tetuan, Larache and Martil », explains Joaquim Vergés, coordinator of AMISI.

The work camps have a limited duration of approximately one month and focus the work in two groups: young people and physically handicapped. The volunteering that works in these fields is made up of young university students from Catalonia between 23 and 27 years with a deep involvement in international cooperation. In exchange for the service provided, during their stay in Morocco they are impregnated with the associative culture of the country and also learn Arabic dialect. «These volunteers are responsible for offering sports activities such as Martil, where activities such as volleyball, tennis, football and martial arts were organized, and popular sports among the Moroccan youth such as kickboxing or taekwondo », Informs Vergés. In the field of physical disabilities, physical activity has also been worked specifically through swimming in municipal swimming pools in the city of Tetuan.

Parallel to the fields of work, AMISI has developed an intercultural mediation program in penitentiary centers, where soccer leagues are also organized among the families of prisoners. "The goal of this task is to work with young people there to teach them that in Morocco they are not so bad and to let them know that coming to Spain is not as they imagine," explains Joaquim Vergés. "We also work with boys from 25 or 26 years who are repatriated in Tanger; Imagine in what situation they arrive in Morocco: having lost several years of their lives in penitentiary centers and then getting empty hands, "Vergés complains, for whom sport is an ideal tool to dinamize these youngsters and do -to overcome the psychological shock of what happens.

Gonfreville House
The general objective is to reintegrate socially the boys and girls victims of the Ivory Coast conflict through sport development. The beneficiaries are a total of four hundred children and young people, aged between 7 and 17 years, voluntarily or unintentionally enrolled in the warlike fronts that have already left the conflict zones. Young people abandoned with problems of drug addiction, lack of education and with subsistence difficulties, and de-schooled girls who have offered assistance as servants to the military camps settled in Bouké.

"Our trainers are titled by the Ivory Coast Sports Department and teach nanos to play football, basketball, handball and volleyball," explains Arnaud Konan, the executive and administrative director of the project. Of all these sports, technical and collective game activities are developed, but they also focus on working the physical well-being of boys and girls with a series of directed exercises.

One important task of this project is that developed by Alfred Atta, president of the Gonfreville House. "At the same time, we have developed an activity aimed at children soldiers in which sport has proved to be extraordinarily effective, since sports practice has allowed many of these boys to free the tensions that have accumulated, because many are teens who have left back a crisis situation with very tough experiences, "explains Atta, adding that" it is normal that these nanos later live in a state of excitement superior to that of other children in the center, and have observed that sport allows them burn all the energies and feel more relaxed and at peace with themselves and their environment ». The results have been absolutely positive in 97% of cases.

The Catalan Agency for Cooperation and Development (ACCD) is the institution assigned by the Generalitat de Catalunya which is responsible for granting aid to cooperation and development projects. In order to receive these grants, projects that claim public funding must comply with the requirements published in the Official Gazette of the Generalitat de Catalunya (DOGC). According to Andreu Felip, director of the Catalan Agency of Cooperation, "every time we approve a call, projects must align with the development plans of the countries in which they want to develop, they must be viable and sustainable, economically, socially and environmentally, and must incorporate strategies for the promotion of equality between men and women, respect for human rights and the natural environment ".

the author

Cristian González

Graduate in Journalism (UPF), Graduate in Contemporary History (UB), Master in Business Communication Specialization in Digital Technologies (UPF).

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