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IOC and UN-Habitat Partnership: Accelerating Sustainable Development through Sports in Cities


IOC and UN-Habitat Partnership: Accelerating Sustainable Development through Sports in Cities
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UN-Habitat have embarked on a new partnership to encourage physical activity in city settings, highlighting the crucial role of sports in urban sustainable development and the health of city dwellers.

This partnership is an extension of the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 and Olympic Agenda 2020+5 reforms, which aim to amplify the impact of sports on sustainable development. It also aligns with the United Nations 2030 International Development Agenda’s acknowledgment in 2015 of sports as a catalyst for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda.

The partnership will bolster the IOC’s Olympism365 strategy, which leverages sports to foster sustainable development, by connecting with UN-Habitat’s broad network of city leaders and officials.

Furthermore, it will aid UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities Initiative, a flagship program that empowers cities to expedite their progress towards the SDGs and improve the living conditions of urban inhabitants. Through the provision of data, evidence-based planning, capacity-building, project financing, and certification, the SDG Cities Initiative aims to positively affect one billion lives in 1,000 cities by 2030.

“From our longstanding experience of putting sport at the service of society, we know that we have to bring the benefits of sport to where the people are – this means in the cities and urban areas of our world,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, speaking at the UN-Habitat – Local 2030 Coalition event. “We are honoured to sign a new partnership with UN-Habitat to support SDG 11, to make cities more resilient and sustainable.”

“With our Olympism365 strategy, the IOC addresses several of the SDGs at the same time: health, social inclusion, education, gender equality and many more. We are building healthy communities in partnership with the World Health Organization. By encouraging people to lead active lives, we are fighting non-communicable diseases and are contributing greatly to physical and mental health. Beyond health, sport has great social significance. It is a glue that bonds communities together. We are promoting inclusion and integration through our work to support refugees. Together with the UNHCR, we are supporting displaced people across the globe through sport and through the creation of safe sports facilities – many of them directly in refugee camps.”

He wrapped up his address by stating, “A city that doesn’t incorporate sports is not a true SDG city.
”UN estimates suggest that by 2050, nearly 70% of the global population will reside in urban areas, a significant increase from the current 55%. This makes cities an essential ally in any initiative to advance sports and sustainable development, said. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.
“With only seven years remaining to achieve the SDGs, we need to transition from a leisurely walk to a full-on sprint. The SDGs are universal and require universal participation. All stakeholders must participate in this race. This collaboration will not only highlight the role of sports as a catalyst for sustainable development in cities but will also show how societal involvement can speed up impact.”
The new partnership combines efforts to expedite sustainable development and enhance the quality of life in cities with initiatives to reinforce the role of sports as a facilitator of sustainable development, particularly through urban sports and within cities. The collaboration, funded by both the IOC and UN-Habitat, will kick off with projects in several countries, initially focusing on four main areas:
  • Incorporating sports and physical activity into cities’ analytical and planning tools to foster urban environments that promote active lifestyles and broaden community access to the benefits of sports.
  • Building the capacity of municipal authorities, National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and sports organizations by sharing knowledge about the role of sports and physical activity in sustainable urban development.
  • Investing in the refurbishment and programming of urban sports infrastructure through seed funding and finance, promoting access to and inclusion in the benefits of sports in targeted communities.
  • Developing guidelines for integrating sports into urban development policies and resource allocation, acknowledging the significant role of sports in creating healthier and more dynamic cities. The implementation will commence in November 2023 in five cities across Africa, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, with an initial duration of three years.
The collaboration was unveiled at the SDG Acceleration – Localisation session, jointly hosted by UN-Habitat and the UN Development Programme, during the SDG Summit in New York. The session, which included interventions by the heads of state of Ghana, Türkiye, and Egypt, as well as ministers, mayors, and other key urban development players, aimed to rally global and national commitments to support locally driven actions to accelerate progress on the SDGs.