Spotlight on sport and democracy
With support from Swedish Postcode Foundation, sportanddev is launching a spotlight on sport and democracy. We aim to increase awareness and knowledge of the topic, and to increase debate and dialogue.
Along with this call for articles, we will also launch a website section and organise a webinar in the coming weeks.
Democratising sport and development
Sport and democracy is a critical issue. sportanddev’s Reshaping Sport and Development Campaign focused on democratising the sector toward a more equitable, accessible and inclusive state. Similarly, the concept of democracy focuses on representation and the need for everyone to have an equal voice.
We invite the sportanddev community to explore, identify and discuss the values underpinning democratisation, in particular providing a voice to groups and individuals from underrepresented regions in sport and development.
Further, sportanddev recognises that the governance of many sporting bodies leaves much to be desired. The need to improve in this area is emphasised by policy documents such as the Kazan Action Plan. Therefore, this spotlight aims to contribute to protecting the integrity of sport and promoting democracy as a core concept in sport for development.
Sport and democracy
Democracy is defined as a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Good governance in democracy and human rights in democracy are highly relevant in this conversation.
The concept of sport and democracy can be explored as democracy in sport, democracy through sport, and the intersectionality across these concepts. For example, sport and democracy may look at sport as an incubator for ideals - including a space where citizens have an equal chance to voice opinions. Team sports can provide an environment that helps create future citizens who are grounded in the values of teamwork, which is essential for advancing democracy. Sport and democracy can see individuals in an undemocratic society advocating for democracy in sport activities or arenas. Finally, sport and democracy can be examined through the concept of good governance and hierarchies in sport.
Sport and democracy has been discussed in a webinar by UConn’s Neag School of Education, a Play the Game article about democracy and autocracy, a BBC article about sport and politics, and a Council of Europe article about how to advance human rights through sport, among other sources.
Additionally, to spark further ideation and exploration, below are examples of how and where sport and democracy may take shape
Democratic behaviour and values within a sports activity or sports NGO (intragroup)
Physical activity that promotes democracy across various groups (intergroup)
Sport as a tool to contribute to democratic societies (grassroots/community level)
Governance, government processes, and political elections that affect sports bodies (national level)
Sports governing bodies use of high-profile global sports events to promote human rights (international level)
Sports venues/spaces to promote participation in election voting
Sports events to promote trust in government institutions
Athlete activism to promote human rights and the elevation of underserved people and voices
Democratising the sport for development sector (e.g., ensuring different voices are heard, distributing resources in a more equitable way, addressing power imbalances between different parts of the world)
Diplomacy is defined as the profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country's representatives abroad. Diplomacy can contribute to fostering democracy and building strong institutions.
Sports diplomacy refers to the unique power of sport to bring people, nations, and communities closer together via a shared love of physical pursuits. According to the US Embassy in Mexico, sport “provides a pathway to build bridges and enhance people-to-people ties, as the universal passion for sports transcends sociocultural and linguistic barriers, and unites people. Sports are a fun and efficient way to reach out to certain strategic audiences, such as at-risk youth due to violence or extreme poverty; girls and women; indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, among others.”
Similar to sport for development, sports diplomacy can promote values and life skills related to leadership, gender equality, non-violence, and community engagement. The key difference may be that diplomacy often functions across nations or governments, while development may often take place at the community level.
Examples of sports diplomacy include:
1.Elite athletes positioned as national ambassadors or inspiration (such as athlete Goodwill Ambassadors) in which they leverage their platform to improve relations between two or more different communities/countries
2.Exchange programs where individuals or athletes visit a different country, thereby fostering increased understanding across two or more different communities/countries
3.Mega sports events, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, that promote peace across athletes and community members from different countries
Call for articles
We are inviting you to submit articles to sportanddev on the topic of sport and democracy. You can contribute on behalf of an organisation highlighting how you are tackling the issue or as an individual sharing your views on the topic. We are open to receiving articles on a range of subjects, but some questions to consider are below.