The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka hosted an event in commemoration of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace at the United Nations Headquarters today (April 6th 2018). April 6th was designated as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace pursuant to GA Resolution A/RES/67/296. The Mission of Sri Lanka co-sponsored the event along with UNESCO-Centre for Global Education, United Africa Football Club and African Cultural Promotions Inc.
The event commenced with opening remarks delivered by Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. In her remarks Ms. Samarasinghe emphasized the the values of empathy, oneness, inclusion, forgiveness, compassion and love for others that sport can inculcate. Her full remarks can be found below.
The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, delivered a statement as a special guest highlighting the capacity of sport as a unifier, referring to her own experiences travelling as an Envoy and visiting poverty-stricken areas as well as refugee camps. She noted that in her conversations with youth, especially children, they emphasized the reliance on sport to distract from their realities and bring them together in their time of need.
Ambassador Guy Djokken, Chairman U.S. Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations and Akpovy Kossi Gbezondi, President, Federation of Sports Togo also delivered statements as special guests. Emeka Ezeogu, a former Nigeria International Footballer, delivered a keynote address speaking on the need for diversity in sports and of sports to be acknowledged and celebrated. Dr. Akil Kokayi Khalfani, Director, Africana Institute and Professor of Sociology, Essex County College, noted that young people especially seem to be losing sight of the value of sport in their life, both for physical and mental health, especially considering the reliance on technology.
Additional speakers included Mr. Ishmeal Dodoo, Country Strategy Advisor, Office of the ASG and Head of UNDP Africa Bureau, Dr. Monica Sanchez, Executive President, UNESCO Institute for Fashion Education, Rev. Alex Knowles Major, (Retd) Executive Director, Pioneer Camp and Retreat Center, and Princess Angelique Monet, Founder, AFI Peace Initiative, among others.
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka
6h April 2018
International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
Opening Statement by
Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
“Exploring the World of Sport and Development – Opportunities for Youth”
6th April 2018
CR 11, UNHQ, New York
10:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Good Morning Excellencies, colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, and especially the youth and students I see around this room. I would also like to acknowledge Mrs. Jayathma Wickramanayake, Secretary General’s Youth Envoy for taking the time off her busy schedule to be here with us today.
I would like to thank Dr. Ada Okika and the UNESCO Center for Global Education, and the other co sponsors the African Cultural Promotions Inc., and the United Africa Football Club as we gather today not only to celebrate the International Day of Sport but also discuss ways and means of implementing what we as member states resolved to do by harnessing the potential of sports. This day declared by the United Nations signifies the increasing recognition by the United Nations of the positive influence that sport can have on the advancement of human rights, and social and economic development.
Sri Lanka is a country that loves its sport – especially cricket, soccer and rugby football. Everywhere, from a street corner in a remote village in the peripheries of our island, to the big stadiums in the big cities, cricket is played by our youth with an unparalleled passion, and an unbridled enthusiasm for the game.
When we look at sport as a potential to promote development and peace we have to address our mind to holistic education which include all domains of learning – Cognitive (thinking), Affective (emotion/feeling), and Psychomotor (physical/kinesthetic) learning. Today, it is well known that physical movement has the potential to enhance memory and recall, and can aid in accelerating long-term memory.
If we are to promote the Culture of Peace we must indeed do so with our youth and in our schools. As the great Mahatma Gandhi said “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
As a country that is now firmly on a path of reconciliation following a long period of conflict, Sri Lanka is focused on Childhood Development and youth empowerment.
We have established to this end, the office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR). Among a range of activities, ONUR is working on educational sector reform to incorporate national unity and reconciliation as a pillar within the education sector, with a view to instilling in our children the importance of plurality.
Sri Lanka is on the cusp of introducing a comprehensive social and emotional learning program for 3-5 year olds in its preschools island wide. This programme seeks to adopt a curriculum mediating all aspects of experiential, social and emotional learning in order to end discriminatory mindsets and a cycle of violence. It seeks to change the mindsets and attitudes of children during their formative years, through value based education, activity, play and sport as a compulsory new subject.
As a country recovering from conflict, we remain convinced that the only way to heal the wounds of division is by inculcating the values of empathy, oneness, inclusion, forgiveness, compassion and love in our children while they are young and open to change. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the universal language of sport and play.
Today more and more there is a need for a universal language. The face of conflict and violent extremism has changed. It is no longer confined to national borders. This is why the problem of marginalized frustrated communities, especially the youth is not just a local, national, regional problem but a global one.
Sri Lanka has recognized the importance of developing youth skills, and took the initiative to declare July 15th as the World Youth Skills Day. The resolution of the World Youth Skills Day received the overwhelming support of the General Assembly.
Indeed sport is so integral to our social progress and the development of character that our languages have absorbed sporting metaphors and other figures of speech to depict strength of character and honesty of purpose. Like to “play a straight bat”, “play the game”, “sportsmanlike”, “Level playing field”, step up to the plate” for instance.
In the Declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sport’s role for social progress was unanimously acknowledged by all nations.
In Resolution A/RES/67/296 of 2013 the General Assembly “invites “States, the United Nations system and, in particular, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, relevant international organizations, and international, regional and national sport organisations, civil society including, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders to cooperate, observe and raise awareness of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.”
In furtherance of this resolution I hope we can have a fruitful and robust discussion on this important subject.