World leaders recognized the power of sport and its values at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit and at the 2002 Special Session on Children. In July 2002, then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened an Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace to review activities involving sport within the United Nations system. The Task Force was co-chaired by then UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy and Adolf Ogi, the former president of Switzerland who in 2001 had become the first Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.
This high-profile task force brought together 10 UN organizations with varying levels of experience using sport in their work, including the ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNEP, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, UN Volunteers, UNAIDS and the World Heath Organization. The Secretariat of the task force was the non-governmental organization Right to Play, founded and headed by Olympic medalist Johann Koss, who in 1994 had been named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
In 2003, the Task Force produced “Sport for Development and Peace: Towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” which concluded that sport – from play and physical activity to organized and competitive sport – is a powerful and cost-effective way to advance the Millennium Development Goals.
At the end of 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the role of sport as a means to promote health, education, development and peace. It proclaimed 2005 as the International Year for Sport and Physical Education, stating that “the United Nations is turning to the world of sport for help in the work for peace and the effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”
UNICEF laid out its argument for sport in the 2004 publication, “Sport, Recreation and Play.” This publication documented how UNICEF was incorporating the power and potential of sport, recreation and play into country programmes, developing partnerships to get girls and boys onto sports fields and playgrounds, and mobilizing governments to develop comprehensive strategies to ensure that the right of every child to play is recognized.