“It’s time to encourage sport for all”
Everyone agrees about the virtues of sport, but the challenge is to translate words into acts, according to Laetitia Habchi, Sport and Development Advisor at the French Agency for Development (AFD).
How can sport contribute to integrating marginalised groups of people?
LH: Sport is a powerful vehicle for cohesion and social integration. It helps to construct a sense of identity and citizenship, and plays a part in the dialogue between peoples and nations. It is a way to find individual fulfillment while coming into contact with others. It also makes it possible to recreate social links, particularly in the context of vulnerability and with people who are marginalised.
Sport helps bring people who speak different languages together, so it makes the integration of asylum seekers and refugees easier. It also provides a structuring framework for young school drop-outs, who find that they are listened to and a way of giving meaning to their lives. In the same way, for persons with a disability, with the support of the IOC, for example, doing sport is a lever for social integration.
Sport is also a very good way of combating gender inequality. Participating in sport and in competitions is an excellent vector for empowerment. Finally, the fight against homophobia should include sports grounds and the sport sector needs to be mobilised.
It’s time to encourage sport for all. If certain groups of people are deprived of sport, they are deprived of the chance to gain basic skills such as working in a team, self-control, respect for the rules and the opportunity of developing leadership skills and reaching a form of intellectual and physical equilibrium. Today there is very wide agreement about the benefits of sport, but this is often only words. Action is essential!
What schemes is the AFD running to arrive at this?
LH: The Sport dimension has been integrated into the AFD’s overall strategy. It is a transversal theme. Sport is being integrated into all the new projects in every field. New school building projects, for example, will now include sports grounds; health programmes will include a section on prevention through sport, and town planning will include sports areas.
Then, the AFD is pursuing a strategy based specifically on sport and development. Initiatives with very clear objectives have been launched, in partnership with the NBA and with the Guilde Européenne du Raid, a French NGO which supports micro-projects. In both cases this enables funding for African NGO projects like the Bénin Debout association promoting sport tournaments with mixed teams, training sessions including persons with a disability and education programmes.
The AFD also supports the organisation of major sporting events such as the 2022 Summer Youth Olympics in Dakar, where the economic and social spin-offs will fit into a sustainable development perspective. Lastly, in June 2020 we will be launching the Sport en Commun (Sport in Common) platform at the France-Africa Summit on the subject of sustainable cities.