Young People focus on conflict resolution through Sport for Development and Peace projects

by Liam Jefferson, Youth Sport Trust

Young People focus on conflict resolution through Sport for Development and Peace projectsAround the world, many highly motivated young people work tirelessly to support their communities through UN Sport-for-Development-and-Peace projects.  A lot of these young people have only basic access to education, limited resources with which to carry out their projects, and few organised forums where they can learn best practices or develop their leadership skills.

The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, UNOSDP, conceived the idea of a Youth Leadership Programme to support young people by giving them access to training to improve projects and their own professional progress, and by supporting them once they go back to their communities.

As someone who delivers and tutors in the United Kingdom I was given the chance to deliver on a training camp as part of my ongoing professional and career development.

The camp brought together 31 young people from 18 different countries including; Brazil, Egypt, Palestine, Russia, Syria and Ukraine in Hamburg for a 12-day learning experience.

Our role as the Youth Sport Trust was to facilitate leadership workshops and guide reflection and learning throughout the 12 days with the overarching goal that the young people will return to their communities ready to use the power of sport to further improve the lives and opportunities for others within their communities. Through our sessions with the young people we explored various issues including fair play, equity, mutuality, conflict resolution, cultural diversity and in the global context inclusion, religion, ethics and many others.

Other organisations provided a wide range of activities and learning opportunities and included the International Table Tennis Federation, Badminton World Federation, International Olympic Truce Centre, UNAIDS, Boxgirls International and Inter Milan’s Inter Campus.

The whole camp was a truly inspiring experience and I had the chance to meet some incredible people. Oudai, a Syrian refugee now living in Germany told me how he had walked for 25 days through 15 countries in order to escape the conflict in Syria. He explained how he lived on hand-outs of bread and water along the way but now re-visits the same refugee camp he was placed in to deliver football coaching sessions for others that are in a similar situation to his.

I also met Judith a German national who also visits refugee camps to deliver football sessions but who is working with her university, a student organisation and local clubs to build links for refugees to join local sports clubs.

Another highlight was the delivery of a workshop developed by my Youth Sport Trust colleague and co-tutor Viv Holt on conflict resolution. Within the workshop we explained the meaning of conflict and challenged perceptions that conflict is negative. One of the most powerful moments of the workshop was reflections from young people from war-torn countries on how they believe they could paint conflict in a more positive way to improve the fortunes of others like them.

We also explored how to move from conflict to collaboration where young people from Ukraine and Russia sat together in groups discussing how they could use the power of sport to collaborate. This brought home how powerful sport can be as a tool to aid development and peace.