The Forum and sport

“Sports have the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope, where there was once only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination. Sports is the game of lovers.” - Nelson Mandela

Sports can help strengthen common values and overcome barriers and distrust, cultural misconceptions, prejudices and fears. Many good practice examples show that sports can also empower migrant youth and create role models for integration. However, the reality on sports grounds and in stadiums shows that sports can also be a platform for xenophobic, discriminatory and homophobic bullying and harassment.

The Fundamental Rights Forum will deal with both of these contradictory phenomena. It will connect EU policy makers in the area of sports and sports organisations with civil society groups promoting inclusion and equality, and will inspire further practical initiatives that help harness the potential of sports as a booster for an inclusive and diverse society.

How will the Forum do this? First, the Bulgarian Ministry of Youth and Sports, together with relevant NGO initiatives, will facilitate a session at the Forum on how to put adopted EU Council Conclusions on promoting values through sport into practice. The discussions will centre around how sports can be a driver for promoting common values and human rights.

Second, a session led by the Vienna Institute for International Development and Cooperation (VIDC) and fairplay will discuss how sports can be a vehicle for the social inclusion of migrants, persons with disabilities and other groups. The Forum will also feature the presentation of practical experiences for example, from the Austrian federation of sports for people with disabilities (ÖBSV) and the football club of Rapid Wien, which has set up a “Special Needs Team”. VIDC/fairplay will present the results of its forthcoming project “Football for Equality II – Tackling Homophobia and Racism with a Focus on Central and Eastern Europe”. The civil society organisations and initiatives Kicken ohne Grenzen (football without limits), Play Together Now and Rugby Opens Borders will showcase how sports empower refugees in their local environment.

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