WARSAW, POLAND. As part of the live coverage from this year’s World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, ROOSTERGNN is conducting a series of follow-up interviews with speakers and representatives of diverse organizations present at the event.

One of these organizations is Peace and Sport, or L’Organisation pour la Paix par le Sport, an international initiative under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco. Its mission is to offer a space of peace for those affected by war and poverty. A space in which sports are used as a tool for interaction and an escape from reality.

ROOSTERGNN had the opportunity to interview Laurent Dupont, CEO and Brand Development Director for Peace and Sport, about his views on the importance of sports in peace building initiatives.

How can the practice of structured sport contribute to educate young generations and foster social stability, reconciliation and dialogue between communities?

Laurent Dupont: The practice of structured sport offers a dedicated space for interaction between individuals. This space offers an opportunity to exchange through sport thereby establishing dialogue, the key educational ground work to foster social stability and reconciliation between communities.

How can this accessible tool adapt to serve peace through concerted, effective and relevant political action?

A change in perspective is needed. Leaders need to increasingly look at sport as an alternative investment for society and not solely for the development of sporting champions. As a tool, one can adapt sport by changing the rules, the equipment, the environment and the objectives in order to contribute to the wider societal aim of peace.

Why are sports a particularly useful tool for helping children in conflict areas or other difficult settings?

One of the specifications of sport as a tool is that its practice implies participation and interaction. In this sense, sport can provide a moment in which the individual is active and living in the present. This small step may additionally offer a momentary escape from reality, while providing a context that is controlled, non-threatening and interactive in which all actors are bound by the same rules. A non-negligible step towards integration which offers young people a sphere in which they can spend time together, connect with others through play. A luxury often neglected in conflict situations, when basic needs and survival become primary concern.

When considering sport as a tool, it is important to understand that it is not, nor do we aspire to make it a solution to a problem; we believe however, that it is an effective tool in conflict prevention and peace building by bringing the individual and community through different stages:

  • Building one’s own identity
  • Relating to other
  • Sharing personal space and progressing together.

Through an adapted structured approach sport can break social isolation and create grounds upon which peace education can take place in a dynamic and participatory way.

How exactly does your organization employ sports to promote peace? What kinds of sports do you rely on, and have you found some to be more effective than others? (Is a sport like football, which is so pervasive throughout the world, helpful in your mission?)

We work on different levels, with all sports. There is no one solution fits all and thus not one sport better than the next it all depends on the local reality, the context, the environment, the target group, the objectives, etc.

Sport is our tool and as any tool the key lies in how we use it, how it is put in practice and implemented on the ground. For this reason, through its work, Peace and Sport accompanies local actors in using and developing peace through sport pilot projects. We may accompany through the preparation phase, gathering the concerned parties, to develop training, tools or follow up.

There are again no sports more effective than others; each project has its specificities and particularities. Choosing the sport depends very much on the degree of consciousness of the local environment (federations, governments, coaches and the community at large). The environment has to be studied in order to evaluate which (if one) may be most suitable, there are many potential influences, tv may influence for example the use of football, local sport heroes may offer more visibility and attractiveness to another sport, the exposure to a particular sport may have an influence to one sport being more attractive however, as far as being effective this really depends on the reality on the ground and objectives for the community.

Peace and Sport as a platform employs sport to promote peace on different levels. Could you explain a little more about each of your progams?

Our field programs include pilot programs using sport for peace and development, as well as special events, friendship games and a women’s badminton cup.

We also seek to influence policy and advance dialogue with world leaders through the Peace and Sport International Forum, a platform for dialogue and interaction. The Champions for Peace program uses sports ambassadores to serve as role models for promoting peace. On a more general level, we take advantage of sport diplomacy and lobbying, also to promote peace.

Promoting best practices, in turn, is done at our Peace and Sports Awards and on April 6, the celebration of the International day of sport for development and peace, where we promote peace through sport and by offering visibility to its existing reality. Accompanying tools include our Adapted Sport Manual and promoting ways to reach self-sustainability.

What countries do you operate in? Are some countries more receptive to using sports as a peace-building tool?

We operate in Colombia, Timor Leste, Israel/Palestine, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Haiti and Cote d’Ivoire.

It is not the country that is more receptive but the degree of consciousness reached by the community in question. The history, the culture, the context is what makes a difference, if they have traditional sports, local “heroes” and role models, if there is consciousness that there can be a return on investment for governments, sport federations and the community, these impact the receptiveness to using sport as a peace building tool. The real difference is the degree of consciousness that sport can be an effective tool and a real inexpensive investment for society.

And what about gender? Are males more receptive to sports than females?

In the same way as there is no one sport solution, one country more receptive, there is no gender more receptive than another. Societal norms need to be understood and taken into consideration in the development stages of a program however, the receptiveness of sport as a tool really depends on the degree of maturity on the topic.

What are your goals for the future? How can people help and get involved?

Our goal is to advance the reality that is peace through sport and increase dialogue and exchange between the peace and sport worlds. Through our various actions, we world on different levels with different spheres to propel the movement forward by promoting best practices, influencing policy and opening dialogue with world leaders as well has pushing the reality on the ground through pilot projects.

There are two main ways people can get involved:

(1) By raising awareness: spreading the word, raising awareness in their community, creating synergies and links between different actors.

(2) By acting: supporting initiatives already implemented or start their own initiative and sharing them with us.