First of all, let me thank you Under Secretary General, Mr Voronkov and your team for organising this event – as well as the Expert Working Group that will follow - and for focusing on sports and its role in preventing and countering violent extremism and for all of UNOCT and other UN entities’ work in raising awareness on the matter.
The "UN Global Programme on the Security of Major Sporting Events and the Promotion of Sport and its values as a tool to prevent violent extremism" is an excellent example of how a 'whole of UN' approach to prevention is both necessary and beneficial.
Sports and leisure activities can contribute substantially to the prevention of radicalisation. Cooperating with youth professionals and applying pedagogical methods can create opportunities for youngsters to work on the attitudes and life skills that make them resilient to ideological exploitation and the lure of extremist violence.
The European Union recognises this powerful role of sport as a vehicle for positive values, tolerance and inclusiveness.
The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), which seeks to connect frontline practitioners from across Europe with one another, and with academics and policymakers, to exchange knowledge, first-hand experiences and approaches to preventing and countering violent extremism in all its forms, prepared a study specifically on the subject. I would like to share some of the recommendations the study puts forward to help our exchange here:
• First, sports should be used as a tool in projects about positive self-development for youngsters and communities, rather than openly using it specifically as an anti-radicalisation tool.
• Secondly, we should always respect the relationship of trust and the anonymity for youth workers and trainers to prevent them from harming the relationship between them and youngsters.
• Thirdly, finding good trainers and role models for youngsters is key. They should be able to build up longer-term relationships and acknowledge their failures and struggles in life. We should hence support role models in developing the skills they need.
• Fourthly, we must recognise that for preventive sports projects, values and learning goals like cooperation, trying and contributing are more important than success.
In its external action, the European Union recognises that sports–based interventions can play a positive role in social networks as well as developing social skills – whether it is for addressing vulnerable youngsters in community-based actions, or even in a prison setting.
In this regard, the EU funds the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) that supports many community-based actions in a number of countries. The fund addresses community and grass-roots level, including supporting sports activities to foster youth engagement and community resilience. These include, for instance, supporting “Play for Peace” sporting events in Kenya, sports-related activities for youngsters in summer camps in Kosovo, or sporting competitions in Bangladesh
Taking part in sports, or passively enjoying others in sports activities, is of great value to society. We, therefore, welcome this discussion today that seeks to optimise that value, also when it comes to the prevention of violent extremism.