Weeks ago, I had a great discussion with Tamar Hay-Sagiv who is a director of the sports department at the Peres Center for Peace in Israel about the role of sports in reconciliation. The Peres Peace Centre has done some great work in this area including women and sports, paralympic sport, sport and peace.
It is always difficult to make generalized comparisons about various conflict ridden areas, but the readers will forgive me if I say that the Balkans and the Middle East have at least two things in common- conflict that is at least in one of its part based on ethnicity and religion and great athletes.
Ms Hay-Sagiv and I agreed that sport can be one vehicle to kick start reconciliation among the warring groups, especially as it targets the youth. There has a lot of work done by various NGOs in the field of sport for peace and project for reconciliation.
I have organized several similar initiatives in Montenegro where we specifically looked at the role of sports in environmental protection and economic development with youth ages 10-14 (link it), and have discussed the role of sports in reconciliation with a good friend and former UN Ambassador in Montenegro, Alexander Avanessov who is currently a resident representative in Kyrgyztan.
Within this context, we specifically discussed a possibility of bringing a group of young Palestinian and Isreali kids to Montenegro for a two week sports education camp together with the peers from Montenegro. We preliminarily talked about covering several topics including the role of sports in career development, healthy life style, gender equality, minority empowerment and others. We will be inviting various diplomatic representatives based in Montenegro and NGO colleagues to join in the discussion.
We are aiming for spring 2013 and are currently looking for partners both from the perspective of the educational and financial perspective and we’re super interested to hear about experiences of other organizations that have done similar work.
I was invited to present at International Convention on Science, Education and Medicine in Sports (ICSEMIS) 2012 held in July in Glasgow about the strategy for sports development within the context of the national development plan (I was in charge of integrating sports issues in the Montenegrin National Development Plan currently in the making). There was particular aspect of my presentation that seemed to strike a note with the participants- the role of paralympic committees and countries’ position toward enabling participation of people with disabilities in athletics.
Steffi de Jong, the co-founder of Playable and I have been discussing this topics for some time now, and we are in the middle of planning a regional conference for National Paralympic Committees of 9 countries (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia).
Considering the importance of this topic for social equality and human rights, we decided to set the meeting close to September 21st and use it to commemorate the International Peace Day. Montenegro will be the host country, following a tradition of innovative and successful celebrations of this day that I put in motion- you can see what one of those events looked like here.
The first planning meeting for the regional conference took place in London just few days ago where members from these National Committees exchanged ideas about the event with the members of the International Paralympic Committee and the European Paralympic Committee.
Our goal is to use the event to get answers to some of the pressing issues regarding long term strategies and challenges facing sports development for people with disabilities in the region, including:
- Quality of relations between the Paralympic Committees with the National Olympic Committee, Sports Ministry, rehabilitation and social centers, schools and sports clubs
- What are the funding sources and challenges for the National Committees
- What is the status of talent identification and support programs
- What is the legal status for coaches and managers certification for sports
I’ll be posting updates about our planning and the actual event on this blog, so stay tuned.