26 January 2006

"Sport Contributes to Personal Development and Growth", Says Secretary-General at Media Lunch in Davos

NEW YORK, 25 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks as delivered today by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the media lunch on "The Impact of Sport in the World", in Davos, Switzerland:

Thank you, Mr. Adams. And thank you, Klaus Schwab, for inviting me to speak at this media lunch, on a subject I think we all can connect to.

People in every nation love sport. Its values are universal. It is a global language, capable of bridging social, cultural and religious divides. It can be a powerful tool for fostering understanding, tolerance and peace.

I believe sport contributes to personal development and growth. It teaches us teamwork and fair play. It builds self-esteem and opens doors to new opportunities. This, in turn, can contribute to the well-being of whole communities and countries.

That is why, in the United Nations, we are drawing increasingly on the potential of sport in our work around the world. It is why the UN General Assembly declared 2005 the International Year of Sport and Physical Education, and has requested an action plan to strengthen UN partnerships with Governments, sports organizations and the private sector.

We are using sport as a tool in our work to reach the Millennium Development Goals -- the set of objectives adopted by leaders around the world and also accepted as a blueprint for building a better world in the twenty-first century. This applies to the entire development spectrum -- from education to the advancement of women and girls, the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and a fight against poverty with a target date of 2015.

We are turning to sport in our work for peace and security, in helping to heal the emotional wounds of war among young people, people in refugee camps, and in countries recovering from armed conflict.

As you know, the UN General Assembly has supported the revival of the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce -- most recently urging all countries to observe the Truce during the upcoming Winter Games in Turin.  The period of the Olympic Games is often long enough for us to hope for a permanent ceasefire, a permanent peace. I believe it is long enough for the protagonists, and people who are destroying their own countries and killing each other, to pause for a moment, look around them and see what damage they are doing.  And hopefully some of them will not pick up the weapons again and realize there is another way.  It is something that the Olympic Truce offers.  That hope I think we should all accept. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we are only beginning to tap into the promise of what sport can offer and has to offer in our attempts to improve conditions, social and economic conditions around the world.

I believe this Forum is an opportunity to take the efforts of the international community to a new level.  It offers a number of imaginative ideas, and I look forward to seeing many of them implemented positively.

Before closing, let me thank my good friends Jacques Rogge and Sepp Blatter for their close and supportive collaboration with the United Nations.  I look forward to strengthening our cooperation even further.

Let me also thank Adolf Ogi, the former President of Switzerland, for his dynamic leadership as my Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace.

In a few minutes you will hear from Dölfi on the achievements of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005, and on the steps ahead.

I'm sure Jacques, Sepp and Dölfi will all join me in the hope that before too long, the speakers at events like this one will be all women!

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