UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, today opened the 5th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPSV) in Berlin. The two-day conference, attended by representatives from over 130 countries, will discuss ways of keeping sport clean, equitable and accessible for all.
In her opening address, Irina Bokova stressed that sport is “part of the social fabric, binding communities […] a tool for social cohesion and inclusion”.
However she also expressed concern over disturbing trends undermining these benefits, and signaled that commercial interests must be balanced with the intrinsic social values embodied in sport.
“Sport has never been more global or more influential” said the Director-General. “We are living in a new era of sport consumption, or sport as big business. We celebrate athletes and watch them on high definition screens – at the very same time, we are seeing a dramatic decline in the practice of sport. We see a drop-off of physical education; we see the integrity of sport violated…”
Chancellor Merkel also underscored the power of sport for social cohesion.
“Sport is an international language,” said Chancellor Merkel. “Sport overcome boundaries and borders […] and enables people to open their minds to the world.”
The Chancellor urged the conference participants to carefully consider the opportunities that sport offered for integration and empowerment. These opportunities, she said, “transcended the economic aspects” but “become null and void when the integrity of sport is called into question.”
Both leaders also stressed that the issues facing sport could only be solved at international level through close cooperation between governments along with sporting bodies and other major stakeholders.
“Globalized sport needs a globalized response,” said the Director-General. She called for a two-pronged approach: developing access to sport as a basic right for all, fully integrated into education programmes; and establishing zero tolerance towards doping in sport, corruption and match-fixing.
Over the next two days, the conference will prepare the Berlin Declaration outlining a series of recommendations and actions for governments to develop sports policies that: ensure access to physical education and sport, especially for women, girls and people living with disability; increase investment in these areas, and recognize their socio-economic benefits including their impact of public health and social inclusion; and providing measures that safeguard the integrity of sport, notably from the fraudulent manipulation of sport competitions.
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