A new partnership between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations (UN) has closed the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), effective on 4 May. The partnership will give the UN direct access to the IOC’s 206 National Olympic Committees and the International Sports Federations, which the IOC says will be a more streamlined approach to governance of global sport.
The UNOSDP was created in 2001 by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. It was supposed to coordinate the UN’s efforts in promoting sport as a means to achieve peace and development around the world. It also assisted Wilfried Lemke, the former Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, in his worldwide activities as an advocate, facilitator and representative of sports’ social impact in a development context. Lemke was not immediately replaced when he left the post at the end of 2016, leaving some to speculate about the future of the UNOSDP.
Few details about the new partnership have been released, but Chinese media outlet Xinhua reported that it was an “apparent cost-saving measure.”
“We are enthusiastic about the great potential of this direct partnership with the United Nations and we thank the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, for his initiative,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “This will strengthen the position of sport even more in society and will help sport to fulfill its role as ‘an important enabler of sustainable development’, as outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The direct partnership is fully in line with the UN resolution, which ‘supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the IOC in leading the Olympic Movement.’”
At sportanddev.org, a website dedicated to global sport and development, authors Marc Probst and Paul Hunt wrote that the UNOSDP was an important player in the global world of sport.
“The UNOSDP had a mixed track record during Lemke’s time in the office, although it carried out some important work,” they wrote. “However, its biggest impact was in what it signified. It symbolized sport and development’s emergence onto the world stage and credibility, not only accessing the UN system but being part of it.”
By Eric Mann
Eric Mann is the communications assistant at the United States Sports Academy. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.