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Adolf Ogi
Physical education: promoting health, peace and development.

The "International Year of Sport and Physical Education", offers a unique opportunity to show the positive values of sport and its vital role in society. These fundamental values, such as respect for rules, opponents, referee decisions and the environment, have much in common with those embodied in the UN Charter.

Sports are rapidly expanding, and economically the industry remains one of the fastest growing. There is an increasing number of global sporting events that are more diversified and attracting an ever-increasing public.

However, the number of people practising a sport on a regular basis has not increased. Sedentary lifestyles seem to be more common, depriving part of the population of necessary physical activity. This leads to illness, such as obesity and cardiovascular diseases, and causes deficiency in the development of bone and muscular systems, among others.

While physical education is considered indispensable to well-balanced development, mandatory physical education in school and its quality (for example, three hours per week of exercise are mandatory in Switzerland), as well as student competency, are constantly threatened. There are also some who would prefer to have private sports clubs and associations take care of teaching sports, confining intellectual studies to schools.

Moreover, the image of sport suffers from excesses linked to top-class athletics, such as revelations about doping, the role of money, and public violence during sport events. These contradictory trends are a source of concern and deserve to be addressed. To encourage reflection on its role in societies and to promote its positive aspects, the General Assembly on 3 November 2003 adopted resolution 58/5, "Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace". Its implementation helps to address more specifically its role in societies as a means to promote well-being and health.

The Year of Sport provides the international community with an opportunity to promote the value of sport as a partner for the achievement of development and peace goals. Overall, it will strive to achieve "a better understanding of the value of sport and physical education for human development and a more systematic use of sport in development programmes".

In 2006, we wish to see sports-based development projects implemented in partnership with the UN system, sports federations, the sporting goods manufacturing industry, athletes and non-governmental organizations. Such projects should be evaluated and presented at the many conferences that will take place throughout the year. At the end of the celebration of the International Year, several publications should make the case for sport in a clear and pragmatic way. We should be in a position to show scientific proof that if used properly and in a supportive framework, sport can effectively assist in education, health, development and peace-building projects.

An office to assist with the preparation for the International Year was established in Geneva under my leadership. I have also received substantial support from the United Nations Development Programme, which has allowed me to open an office in New York that will be responsible for public information activities, as well as assist with the implementation of sports-based programmes and projects within the United Nations system, in partnership with Governments, civil society and the private sector. The office works closely with the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships, which is providing guidance and support for the Year. UNFIP will continue its efforts to promote sports-related partnerships on the field level and assist in the implementation of sports-based programmes for development and peace, as well as raise the profile of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education.

"It is vital to defend and promote positive values of sport, so that

sport finds the role it deserves in our societies and creates a passion

among the great majority of people for a regular practice of physical

activity as a source of well-being."

This is part of a series of articles exploring the many facets of partnerships supported by the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP). In the series, some of the UN private sector and foundation partners will convey their views on how partnerships with the United Nations are being built and are achieving impact on the ground.

Adolf Ogi

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