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UNICEF and the world cup

Football reaches more youth than any other recreational activity in the world. It is a worldwide phenomenon that has made the sport more than just a game. It plays a major part in shaping culture in countries around the world. Harnessing the power of football - a universal language that children understand - can translate into real change for children’s lives. 

The FIFA World Cup is not only a great sporting event, but a powerful opportunity to share messages about the profound and positive difference sport can make in the lives of children. It provides a chance to focus positive public attention on the special risks children face in host countries like Brazil and around the world and the special efforts we can take to protect them from those threats.

UNICEF has been working with the FIFA World Cup for the past three tournaments to help harness the power of sport to promote children’s rights for many years. The World Cup, one of the world’s great sporting events, has been a powerful platform to show how sport can create self-esteem, self-confidence and trust among children. A series of partnerships and programmes around the global football championships over the years have provided children with the opportunity to learn about their world and be better protected.

This year, for the 2014 World Cup, UNICEF Brazil has launched an app that allows users, with a few taps on their smartphones or tablets, to report cases of abuse, violence or exploitation of children. Using Proteja Brasil, (Protect Brazil) witnesses as well as victims of violence can report the time, location and circumstances of violent acts to local child welfare authorities. They can do so by telephone or in person.  The report triggers reactions from appropriate law enforcement and child protection authorities. In addition to being a reporting tool, Proteja Brasil also explains the forms of violence against children, including definitions of child labour, discrimination, and sexual violence.

In addition, UNICEF and the government are engaged in a print and billboard campaign with outreach to newspapers, bars, taxis, busses and posters in all of the 12 cities where the games will be played. . The app is part of UNICEF’s It’s In Your Hands to Protect Our Children campaign which aims to bring awareness to Brazilians and international visitors about violence and discrimination against children in the context of the FIFA World Cup. The campaign – also part of UNICEF’s global initiative #ENDViolence – will engage a vast network of Champions for Children, including football supporters and clubs, religious communities, corporate partners, airlines and the Brazilian government.

In 2010, a special partnership between UNICEF and the South African government addressed potential problems that could arise due to the increased presence of people around the games. A massive communication campaign was launched targeted at children, parents and tourists, to warn them about child abuse, exploitation, child sex tourism and trafficking. Partners, including hotels, car rental companies and tour operators are also disseminating messages about child rights and safety throughout their networks.

UNICEF also set up Child-friendly spaces together with its partners at four of the major fan sites during the games in South Africa. The sites hosted as many as 45,000 fans as well as social workers, child and youth care workers and trained volunteers charged with identifying children in need of protection and emergency care. UNICEF also seized this opportunity to have international stars visiting the country for the tournament, such as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, highlight the immense needs of South African children made vulnerable by poverty and HIV.

Outside South Africa, a pilot programme called “World Cup in my village” gave young people in three locations in Rwanda and Zambia the opportunity to view matches on large open-air screens and projectors.  In addition to the football, the screens broadcasted important information about children’s health and their rights.

In 2006, UNICEF kicked off a partnership campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ under the banner UNITE FOR CHILDREN, UNITE FOR PEACE. 



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