Sport for development

Why sport and play

Children in Eritrea playing using a football donated by FIFA

UNICEF recognizes the critical role of sport and physical play in children’s lives.

At the most fundamental level, sport and play are a child’s right, as detailed in article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: States shall “recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts."

Added to this is the broad consensus that regular physical activity is essential for the physical, mental, psychological and social development of children and adolescents. Involvement in sport can boost children’s health, improve academic performance and help reduce crime.

UNICEF believes that sport can be an effective programmatic tool to help achieve goals in health, education, gender equality, HIV/AIDS, child protection and child development. That is the concept of sport for development – that sport is not just an end in itself, but also an effective tool to help improve the lives of children, families and communities.

INDIA - Lalita 18, teaches karate to girls in the Women’s Education Centre in the Amos Block cluster of villages in Gaya District.

The many benefits of sport

Sport, recreation and play are a fun way to learn values and lessons that will last a life time. They promote friendship and fair play. They teach team work, discipline, respect, and the coping skills necessary to ensure that children develop into caring individuals. They help prepare young people to meet the challenges they will face and to take leadership roles within their communities.

UNICEF uses sport festivals and games to educate families about health issues, including the need for vaccination and HIV/AIDS prevention. UNICEF supports programmes that use the power of sport to reach children and adolescents who are often excluded and discriminated against, including orphans, children with disabilities, former child soldiers, refugee and displaced children, sexually exploited children and children from indigenous communities.

With our partners, UNICEF is incorporating opportunities for sport, recreation and play into country programmes to reach children, families and communities around the world. In countries at peace and at war, these activities are being used to promote good health, encourage girls' education, create child-friendly spaces and warn about the harmful effects of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. They are educating young people on the dangers of HIV/AIDS and empowering them with the life skills necessary to protect themselves.

Sport and recreation programs are creating environments that are safe and promote stable relationships between children and adults, and among children themselves. They are providing children of all ages with opportunities to express themselves, to contribute their voice, opinions and ideas, and to become agents for change. They are helping to build communities and are contributing to a more just and peaceful society.




Football changes children's lives.
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