In celebrating the 2015 International Day for Sport Development and Peace, we are calling for the inclusion of sport, physical activity and play in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and advocating for fair play for girls and women in sport globally.

The SDGs are a new, universal set of 17 proposed goals, with 169 specific targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. The SDGs follow, and expand on, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed by governments in 2000, and are due to expire at the end of this year.

The SDGs will become applicable from January 2016 with an expected deadline of 2030. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon clustered the essence of the goals into what he called “essential elements” - dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet, and people. 

At the recent UN Women’s Commission on the Status of Women, Women Win joined Women Deliver, the IOC, UN Women and other organisations across sectors, in advocating for the insertion of sport, physical activity and/or play within the SDGs.

Firstly, we consider the absence of sport, physical activity and/or play within the SDGs as a missed opportunity, particularly with youth, and have specifically targeted:

  • SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
  • SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

These proposed SDGs cover what we consider key targeted opportunities to leverage sport for health, quality education and gender equity. Moreover, there is now clear evidence to support the use of sport as a contributing development strategy for positive outcomes in health, education and gender equity globally.

Secondly, we support the development context of defining sport to cover a broad and inclusive spectrum of activities suitable to people of all ages and abilities, with an emphasis on the positive values of play. As highlighted by the UN Office, the right of access to and participation in sport and play has long been recognised in a number of international conventions. In 1978, UNESCO described sport and physical education as a “fundamental right for all”. But until today, the right to play and sport has too often been ignored or disrespected.

Furthermore, the UN Office for Sport for Development and Peace’s stated documented benefits, including:

  • Individual development
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Promotion of gender equality
  • Social integration and the development of social capital
  • Peace building and conflict prevention/resolution
  • Post-disaster/trauma relief and normalisation of life
  • Economic development
  • Communication and social mobilisation.

Finally, we call for sport to be included as part of the broader SDG agenda in fair play for girls and women.  Adolescent girls and young women are powerful agents of change. When a girl is empowered and given a chance, she will grow into a strong leader. Sport can empower and offer girls and women a place to develop skills and knowledge that translate into life off the field. It builds their resilience muscles and gives them opportunities to practice leadership. In short, their wins on the field translate into wins off the field. The prosperity of girls and women is necessary for a post MDG fair and prosperous world.

As the SDGs are finalised and agreed we call on the inclusion of sport, physical activity and play to be part of the targets and indicators, as its absence is a missed opportunity for all with long-term implications. Let’s play in the SDGs.