[Dateline: Geneva/New York | Author: iSeek]
On a recent week-long working visit to West and Central Africa, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfred Lemke, met with several government officials and national sports authorities in Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon to discuss ways to use sports to achieve long-term peace and development.
While in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Lemke also joined Abou Moussa, the Secretary-General's Principal Deputy Special Representative in that country, to participate in a 10 km run in Koumassi, and addressed an event organized at the headquarters of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), to mark the 63rd anniversary of the United Nations.
“Sport can help ease tensions, reconcile opponents and connect people and communities,” said Mr. Lemke in a key-note address.
Mr. Lemke said that while sport has the potential to empower, motivate and inspire people, it needs to complement broader and comprehensive efforts to prevent conflict and build peace.
The Special Advisor also met with senior representatives of the UNOCI, the Ivoirian Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Dagobert Banzio and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Youssouf Bakayoko, to discuss collective efforts and cooperation in using sport to advance peace and social cohesion in that country.
While still in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Lemke held a joint meeting with numerous National Sports Federations, the National Olympic Committee, the National Institute of Youth and Sport (INJS) and sports journalists to discuss opportunity of designing a “Sport and Peace” Programme.
The Special Adviser also undertook field trips to sport-related projects, including the Sport for Life programme in Abobo, Abidjan, an initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles and HIV prevention for adolescents through football, and Judo Training Club of Bouaké, where young Judoka showed their skills in a special performance for the Special Adviser. Mr. Lemke expressed his appreciation and described the work of the centre as "encouraging and well-inspired".
Mr. Lemke’s trip also took him to Cameroon on 28 October, where he delivered the opening speech of the “2nd International Conference for the Young African Footballer”, organized by the Paris-based NGO, Culture Foot Solidaire, in Yaoundé to raise awareness on the exodus of young footballers from Africa to Europe. The conference also served as a platform to discuss ways to offer career advice to young footballers as well as inform them on migration risks.
Mr. Lemke, who was welcomed by the Cameroonian Prime Minister, Ephraïm Inoni, said: “Youth are among the greatest beneficiaries of the positive effects of sport.” Adding: “Values such as respect, cooperation, discipline and leadership can contribute to improving health and education” as well as give youth a better chance to find a profession.
Mr. Lemke urged governments, football federations and clubs to fight against exploitation of young footballers and to ensure respect of the principles of human rights, especially, the rights of the child.
At separate meetings with the Cameroonian Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Augustin Edjoa, Minister of Youth, Adoum Garoua, and Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Dion Ngute, the Special Adviser discussed several issues relating to sports and youth and the upcoming football World Cup in South Africa.
Mr. Lemke told the officials that the Secretary-General had asked him to make all necessary efforts to ensure that the first World Cup to be held in Africa was successful and brought a lasting legacy for the continent as a whole.
The Special Adviser also met with representatives of the UN Country Team, including the acting Resident Coordinator, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) Jacques Franquin.
Mr. Lemke is currently in Malaysia to attend the 12th World “Sport for All” Congress in Genting Highlands. He will also attend the Summit on the Global Agenda Councils in Dubai from 7 to 9 November.
UN staff take part in International Friendship Run in New York
In another sports related event, more than 50 UN employees on Saturday took part in the International Friendship Run in New York, which united more than 15,000 runners from around the world to celebrate the power of sport.
Flags from many countries, along with the United Nations flag, fluttered in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza at the UN, where the 2.5-mile run began. The UN flag was carried throughout the race and was one of the first to arrive at the finish line in Central Park at Tavern on the Green.
“Team UN” was dressed in identical shirts, sponsored by the UN Athletic Club. Runners from all over the world waved their flags and jogged side by side.
It was a relaxed warm-up for the New York City Marathon, which took place the next day. Many UN staff members participated in the marathon.
Runners are encouraged to join Team UN next year - carry a flag, make a difference, and support the United Nations and the city of New York.