As a cross-cutting programme strategy, Sport for Development (S4D) serves as a vehicle to address UNICEF priorities in the following areas:
Sport and young child survival and development
Sport and physical activity are essential for improving child health and wellbeing, an aim integral to Millennium Development Goal 4. Evidence shows that regular participation in physical activity provides all people, regardless of ability, with a wide range of physical, social and mental health benefits, and can prevent or limit the effects of many of the world's leading non-communicable diseases. In addition, sporting events and sport celebrities provide special opportunities to mobilize communities to support immunization, hand washing and other public health campaigns.
Sport and quality education
Education is a fundamental human right: Every child is entitled to it. At UNICEF, education programmes are using play, physical education and sport to promote healthy child development, and as a means to reach and educate children who are not part of the formal education system. When included in a school curriculum with proper instruction, physical education has been shown to improve the learning performance of children and young people by increasing school attendance and the desire to succeed academically. Sport can also be used, both in formal and after-school programmes, to encourage child-centred and participatory learning, and to teach life skills.
Sport and gender equality
Sport and physical activity are vehicles to foster the participation and inclusion of girls in their communities. Ensuring that girls have equal access to quality education, including physical education, is central to healthy development. Reaching girls who are denied basic schooling requires expanding the way education is provided; non-formal education such as sport-related programmes can be valuable tools.
Sport and HIV/AIDS
Sport is an important entry point to access young people and hard-to-reach groups (for example most-at-risk-adolescents) and can serve as a bridge to HIV- and AIDS-related services. UNICEF works with organizations to use S4D programmes to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to address stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS. It also uses S4D as a means to provide young people with the knowledge and skills to adopt safe behaviours and make informed decisions to protect themselves against HIV infection.
Sport and child protection
There are a number of positive examples of how sport is being used to enhance child protection. In some country programmes, sport is used to provide healthy alternatives to drug and alcohol use, to teach life skills that prevent violence and to protect young people from sexual exploitation and child labour. However, while sport can be used to help create a protective environment, there are also child protection issues associated with sport. UNICEF has a role and responsibility in ensuring that sport organizations and other groups address the potential violence and exploitation that affect some children in sport, including physical maltreatment, sexual misconduct between a coach and a child, bullying and hazing, and trafficking of minors by sport recruiters.
Sport and disability
People living with disabilities constitute at least 10 percent of the global population, and of individuals living in poverty in developing countries, about 20 per cent have a disability. Participation in sport, recreation and play can be especially valuable in empowering children with disabilities and teaching them key life skills. It can help build more inclusive societies by raising awareness about the contributions children with disabilities can make in their communities, and thus changing attitudes. UNICEF works with partners at the local and national level to promote the rights of children with disabilities and give them the opportunity to participate in meaningful sport activities. These activities are based in UNICEF’s commitment to uphold the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.
Sport and adolescent development and participation
Sport is an important channel for reaching and engaging children and young people in their own development. It can help them to become active participants in decision-making, express their own views freely, build self-esteem and acquire key life skills such as conflict resolution and communication.
Sport and conflict, post-conflict and emergencies
There is recognition that sport and recreation play a major and unique role in psychosocial programming for children and young people affected by major disasters and conflict. UNICEF’s sport-in-a-box kit has become an integral component of the psychosocial support that UNICEF and partners provide to affected children. UNICEF also engages in sport initiatives to support peacebuilding, prevent the recruitment of children and adolescents into armed groups and rehabilitate demobilized child soldiers.