From endless chants to the ecstatic display of celebration of fans, sports remains a vehicle of global unity. Individuals, regardless of their colour, race or creed are often united in grief and joy in response to the fortunes of their favourite teams. Apart from uniting the world, perhaps, the most potent role of sports lies in its power to promote empowerment and development across the globe.
The ideas and phenomena that make us human are entrenched in sports. From Ancient Greece where sports was originally used for religious purposes to Ancient China where it was used as a means of education (martial arts and warfare training), self-defense and health maintenance to the Aboriginals in Canada who used it for spiritual training, to develop hunting skills and for entertainment to Egypt (where modern day sporting rules and regulations originated) who used it for health and fitness purposes, we can find that sports has lingered through and even shaped major aspects of the development sequence of humanity.
As part of Sahara Foundation’s effort towards attaining the SDGs, in May 2018, the Foundation worked closely with the UN SDG-F secretariat in developing a tool kit titled ‘Contribution of Sports to the SDGs’.
“Being part of the project was a huge privilege for us at Sahara Group to align with the plan to integrate sports into the SDG plan given our support for the SDGs and the experience we have had with the impact of the Saharalymics, an inhouse biennial sporting event that celebrates competitiveness, unity and excellence at Sahara Group,” says Bethel Obioma, Head, Corporate Communications.
According to Oluseyi Ojurongbe, Manager, Sahara Foundation, the toolkit sheds more light on the impact of sports at local levels to those at global scales, examples of the impact of sports in unifying people and birthing development where most other strategies have failed abound. “The toolkit also contains information on best sports practices in relation to the SDGs, how to develop successful partnerships that can be replicated in various regions of the world, case studies of successful pilots where sports has been used as a tool to address global challenges, and raising visibility of the SDGs globally.”
Ojurongbe explained that the partnership with UNSDGF rides on Sahara’s involvement and key role as part of the United Nations- Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG). In a bid to further reaffirm our commitment to the SDGs, the PSAG Nigeria was established. PSAG Nigeria is aligned towards mobilizing Private Sector and other stakeholder ownership & adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. The Nigerian PSAG, which stems from the Global PSAG – (UN SDG-F) was formally inaugurated by the Vice President of Nigeria in February 2017.
Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool for achieving the SDGs especially in promoting peace and development objectives. In resolution 70/1, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, adopted in 2015, the role of sports in advancing social progress is further acknowledged.
Babatomiwa Adesida, lead author of the report and former Sahara Foundation Manager – who now works with the UNDP in New York – said the toolkit which was formally launched by the UN SDG-F in July 2018 will be adopted by the private sector, non- profit organizations, civil society organizations and governments across the globe. “This approach will be used to promote peaceful co-existence, mentorship, education and extrapreneurship,” he added.