Building stronger links between the sport, education, equality and health sectors

Serving as the Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, Mexican Gabriela Ramos deals with the promotion of values through sport. Sport and Citizenship interviewed her on the use of sport as a transversal tool, notably in the framework of UNESCO’s “Fit for Life programme”.


Gabriela Ramos

© Christelle ALIX / Unesco

According to you, how can sport be used as a transversal tool for the promotion of a more inclusive society and which role can UNESCO play to enhance this function?

Grassroots sport is a powerful tool for promoting inclusion and bringing people together. When targeted and values-based, sport impacts the lives of people, particularly those in vulnerable situations such as persons with disabilities, refugees or internally displaced persons. Sports also play an essential role in combating discrimination and diffusing conflict.
We have robust evidence of the social benefits of sport. Over 98% of participants in sport-for-development programmes focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities report increased self-esteem and empowerment. According to a UEFA study, 80% of young European women surveyed reported that participating in sports increased self-confidence and reduced anxiety.
Despite its transformative potential, few countries are taking full advantage of it. As the UN’s lead agency for sport and physical education, we emphasize its benefits and work with our 193 Member States to adopt targeted policies for inclusive participation in safe, well-organized sport, and support them in building the capacity to implement them efficiently.
Our main sport programme Fit for Life promotes a better understanding of the benefits of sports for all actors that want to rely on it. We are developing indicators and analyses to document the social impact of sport and advocate for smart investments in sport for development. We also partner with the private and public sectors to develop effective sport policies.

How is this programme able to contribute to the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) related to education? Could sport and culture within an educational framework contribute to it?

The Agenda 2030 recognizes the enabling role of sport. We have scientific evidence that sport can contribute significantly to at least 11 SDGs, including those linked to well-being (SDG 3), education (SDG 4) and gender equality (SDG 5). By maximizing the positive impact of sports, Fit for Life is our vehicle to advance SDGs. Practising sport develops skills, such as teamwork, leadership and effective communication, that are useful in the professional environment. In terms of education, physical education has been shown to increase test scores by 40% and improve cognitive function in children ages 6-13 years (US Department of Health and Human Services).
We work with Fit for Life partners to increase sports and improve educational outcomes. The Youth Accelerator Programme serves this purpose. It uses sport activities and values-based training to improve wellbeing, inclusion, and employability. We provide youth with mentorship, masterclass trainings and work placements. This is to foster employability, youth-led community projects and entrepreneurship, and to build human capital. We also work with the educational community to integrate active learning strategies to deliver inclusive, values-oriented sports and quality physical education.

“Few countries are taking full advantage of Sport”

We have developed a comprehensive policy package for quality physical education. We need to teach better sports while enhancing the quality of teachers. The programme has been tested in four countries. Experts consider it “one of the most remarkable and significant global initiatives in Physical Education of the last century.” We are committed to the same result with sport. To this end, we strive to build stronger links between the sport, education, equality and health sectors. This approach is critical to building resilient and inclusive societies.
To succeed, we need to work with schools to use sport and physical education not as a residual activity, but as a core discipline that can generate results in education, learning and values.

Revue 55 Sport et CitoyennetéRead the journal :

Sport and Citizenship 55 : enhancing sport and physical activity by culture


Sport et citoyenneté