UNESCO and Al-Hilal Saudi Football Club join forces to promote social inclusion through sports

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© UNESCO/P. Chang-Joo

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the President of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal Football Club, Mohammad Al-Hmaidani, today signed a three-year partnership agreement to work together for the promotion of social inclusion through sports. Under the agreement, Al-Hilal will fund $1.5 million in projects to provide quality physical education in schools and social integration of youth, especially in conflict and post conflict zones.

“More than ever today, we need to nurture the power of sport as a pillar of healthy societies, societies at ease with themselves and others, societies united in their diversity, based on human rights and equal dignity,” said the Director-General. “Especially in turbulent times, sport must be supported as a transformational force for social inclusion, gender equality, and youth empowerment, with benefits extending far beyond the grounds of stadiums.

“This spirit guides all UNESCO’s action and the partnerships we have crafted with key actors in the fight against doping, to support sport as a force of peace.”         

“We are very proud of the partnership with UNESCO, and we will do our best to achieve the goals set by the organization” said Mohammad Al-Hmaidani, Al-Hilal Club President. “This is the beginning and we look forward to continued success,” he added.

The new partnership is a response to data from UNESCO’s recent publication, Quality Physical Education, which shows a significant decline worldwide in levels of fitness of young people, increasing sedentary lifestyles and rising levels of obesity. The report also highlights the values transmitted by sport and its power to bring excluded youth in from the margins.           

Several sports stars took part in the signing ceremony, including former international football player Daniel Bravo (France), Tai Kwon Do champion Pascal Gentil (France) and wheelchair basketballer Ryadh Sallem. Algieran football legend and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Rabah Madjer, and Arnaldo Fuxa, President of the Intergovernmental Committee of Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS) also addressed the ceremony, highlighting the difference that sport can make to young people’s lives.

“Football has no borders and this partnership is a perfect example” said Rabah Madjer. 

UNESCO is the United Nations agency mandated to promote physical education and sport. In 2013 the UN General Assembly declared 6 April the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace to celebrate the contribution of sports and physical activity to education, human development, healthy lifestyles and a peaceful world.