Working to Build Peace Through Sport

Sept. 21, 2023

The International Day of Peace is more than just a commemoration. Events each September 21 provide fresh impetus to international efforts to address the disruption caused by violence and armed conflict. War Child plays its part - supporting youth to take charge of their lives and help build more just and peaceful societies. One way we do this is through harnessing the power of sport...

Each September 21 the United Nations’ official International Day of Peace is observed - with the UN General Assembly declaring that the day should highlight the ideals of peace through a 24-hour cessation of violence around the world.

This year’s event coincides with a summit to mark the mid-point of the Sustainable Development Goals - an international development agenda agreed by more than 190 UN member states. The 17 goals provide a framework to - as stated in Goal 16 - bring about "more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, free from fear and violence."

War Child’s international programmes are informed by this global development agenda, with a particular focus on specific goals that address education, gender inequality and youth wellbeing.

Our worldwide programmes take many different forms. In Colombia, we have harnessed the power of sport to foster peace.

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Football gives youth in Colombia an alternative to violence

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And helps them come together to promote peace

Play It For Life

Peacebuilding initiatives are particularly important in Colombia, where the fractures of the long internal conflict between armed groups continue to be felt. Stark divisions between different ethnic and political groups persist and opportunities for youth - whether through education or employment - are scarce, pushing them towards illegal activities.

In response, War Child has tapped into the power of sport to help young people develop key skills and become agents of change. The ‘Play it For Life and Future’ programme in the nation's capital Bogota sees War Child work with Dutch football association the KNVB to train youth in vital life skills.

The ‘World Coaches’ component of the programme sees KNVB instructors train young people to become certified football coaches. The programme draws on lessons learned from a previous collaboration in Lebanon. The SAHA programme saw some 3,500 youth from both host and refugee communities take part in football activities.

In Bogota, more than 80 young people trained as football coaches - reaching hundreds more children and youth - and many of them coaches in contact with War Child today.

Manuel’s story

Manuel set out to study sports science and organise sports events in his community - until a criminal group's extortion forced him to stop his work. Manuel almost gave up on his dream until he entered our programme. Now he has much he wants to accomplish.

“I have established a sports school that is very small but rapidly growing,” he says. “The project was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. It changed my perspective on sport and its role in society. It is now our school's mission to foster positive social change and develop professional players.”

“The project was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life."
Manuel, young coach from our Play it for Life and Future project
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Manuel with Dutch football great Johan Neeskens

The Play it For Life and Future project has now come to an end. For more about our ongoing projects in Colombia visit this page.