Ordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS)

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the 2020 Ordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport.

I am glad that, notwithstanding the uncertainty that surrounds us, we are able to get together and advance UNESCO’s important agenda on sports.  We would have certainly preferred to be in Geneva under the generous offer of the ILO, but these are unprecedented times.  But I am glad that we could connect. This is important to reflect how the work of CIGEPs would need to adapt to the post-COVID context.

COVID has a devastating impact on sport, from sport supply chains related to athletes’ working conditions, the management of sporting events and mass gatherings, and occupational safety and health.

This has been documented by the enquiries and studies carried out by international and regional organizations and, lately by the UN Secretary-General’s report intitled Sport: a global accelerator of peace and sustainable development for all (cf A/75/155). More than 1.5 billion children and youth could not attend schools.

At the same time, sport is a key part of the answer to the post-COVID world. We need to get our act together, so this message is loud and clear, and when countries consider they recovery plans, they consider investing in sports.   As DG Azoulay mentioned in the Sports day, it is not only the physical effort, but the values that we convey through sports.

Thus, it is this very essence of sport that we must endeavor to further collectively when building back. This cannot be business as usual.  We need to turn the challenge into an opportunity to increase the investments our countries do on sports and focus on sport policies.

This will complement the bottom up approach that my colleagues in UNESCO’s field offices have pursued by engaging youth, through webinars and media campaigns to share their views on how to overcome obstacles to the practicing of sports; and for the need for sports to be more inclusive.

 This was a major opportunity to build on the unbroken energy of often young women and men in the world who show their commitment each day, as volunteers and professionals, to fostering the spirit of sport as an infinite source of renewal and vitality for societies.

I have the great pleasure to salute among us Ms. Maureen Ojong from Cameroon who is one of those many young people who will address you in a few minutes.

I also would like salute among us Mr Gert Oosthuizen, outgoing President of CIGEPS , who steered the process leading to MINEPS VI and the adoption of the Kazan Action Plan. As he envisaged, the Plan has turned into the overarching framework for a coordinated development of international and national sport policy. Sport Ministers in all regions, be it at the level of the African Union, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe, ASEAN, the Pacific region, or the American and Inter-American Sport Councils, are endeavoring to align their strategies and programs with the Kazan Action Plan.

Great progress has been made in the implementation of the five individual actions of the Plan, and I would like to commend and thank those partners for the substantive investments in leading those actions, organizing collective work based on  voluntary contributions from all over the world: the governments of Switzerland and of Catalonia, Spain, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Council of Europe, and last but not least, the UNESCO Chair at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, Ireland. Together with these –  let us call them ‘Champions’ – Angela Melo, Director for Policies and Programme  in my sector will later brief you on the work accomplished.

I would like to welcome the designation of Kenya by the Director-General to host the next MINEPS VII Conference in June 2021. This timely Ministerial will provide us with the elements we need for the post pandemic recovery.  Having Kenya also marks a milestone in the implementation of UNESCO’s Priority Africa Strategy and follows upon the successful first African Regional Follow-up Conference to MINEPS VI held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in 2019. We shall hear from the delegation of Kenya how preparations for the conference can continue under the circumstances.

 So, in summary , we are counting on CIGEPs strengths, including its renewed mandate in the 40th Conference  and its multistakeholder composition, to position sports as part of the solution when building back better, and when delivering of the SDG.

The time we are living calls for this. COVID is threatening to slow down, suspend and undo progress in sustainable development, peace building and the promotion of human rights. Almost 100 million people has lost their jobs, and the industries linked to entertainment, including sports, are one of the most affected. Youth is also hardly hit, not only on their career prospective, but also in their mental health. Again, sports can provide some answers.

Following up from the conversations last August, the Committee is invited to discuss the establishment of two working groups on (i) the update of the Kazan Action Plan and (ii) strengthening the evidence base for increased investments into physical education and sport. The work to be developed will be informed by COVID, and we hope they will help us to find the answers. We should also aim to advance policy developments and the effective national implementation of relevant policy standards, recommendations and guidance.

The pandemic has also aggravated the resource constraints of public sport authorities, in a moment when they are deeply needed. We will need to develop novel forms of alliances and partnerships to tackle this issue. I think in particular of a specific opening to the business community, beyond the sporting goods industry with whom we already collaborate.

In my former position at the OECD, I had the opportunity to establish a global business network  for inclusive growth, and I believe that  CIGEPS can benefit from business perspectives and expertise together with new funding opportunities for our programs and projects. 

Because, ultimately, Member States will judge the efficiency of the work of CIGEPS and UNESCO’s physical education and sports program by the impact it has on the ground. Bringing our work closer to the populations that look up to UNESCO for the promises it makes for their sustainable wellbeing is the challenge we must live up to.

In this sense, I recognize the immense responsibility that falls upon the new Chairperson of the Committee and the members of its Bureau that you will elect today by consensus. Together with my colleagues and the Secretariat of CIGEPS, lead by Philipp Müller Wirth, I stand ready to accompany CIGEPS and each of you in the Committee’s noble cause.

I thank you for your attention.

Without further ado, I now invite the outgoing Chair of CIGEPS, Mr Gert Oosthuizen, to take the floor.

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