Friday, June 23, 2017

Light and shadow (2) - Dr. Gilles Klein

Light and shadow (2)

Dr. Gilles Klein, 23 June 2017 

New York. 11th September 2001. 08.46 am. New York time. Everyone remembers precisely where he/she was when the first plane struck the first tower of the World Trade Centre. Moon. 20th July 1969. 21.56 pm. Houston time. The oldest remember exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. This astronaut had been commissioned to command the first lunar mission, named Apollo 11. He landed on the moon and went down in the history stating: “It is a small step for Man, but a giant step for mankind”. This modest man was immediately propelled into the media spotlight and had instantaneously become an icon of the space odyssey. He returned into the shadow of a discreet life, fleeing microphones and cameras, living on an Ohio farm.


When the Apollo mission lands, I was a young sports science student, making my first steps, much more modestly, in Africa, for my first stay in Tunisia. With some friends, we camped under the tamarisks, on the edge of the Hammamet beach, near the encampment of the camel drivers and their dromedaries. On that evening of 20th July, looking for a television set, we were in an adjacent hotel where the Governor of Nabeul invited the collected persons to celebrate the global event. For the Governor we were only anonymous figures, fortuitously came to be amazed in his company, faced with this achievement of the American mission.


Daily, behind Neil Armstrong, but also behind John Glenn who led the Mercury mission[1], fused an army of anonymous collaborators, who in the shadow brought their scientific, technological and strategical knowledge to the success of these missions. Among these anonymous persons, because we were in the 1960s[2], the female employees were in a manner of speaking condemned to a double penalty. Because they were women and black, several decades would be required for America to recognize their contributions to the space conquest. The filmmaker Theodore Melfi recently paid tribute to them.


25th December 2016, United States of America. The movie Hidden Figures co-written, co-produced and directed by Theodore Melfi is projected for the first time on the screens. It is adapted from the novel Hidden Figures of Margot Lee Shetterly which tells the history of the American physician, mathematician, and spatial engineer Katherine Johnson. She contributed to the aeronautical and spatial programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This scientist, specialized in astronomical navigation calculated the trajectories of the Mercury program and the Apollo 11 mission towards the moon in 1969.


From the Apollo 11 mission, history retained only Neil Armstrong’s achievement. From the Mercury mission, history retained only John Glenn’s achievement. For the United States of America, these two achievements had an invaluable diplomatic value which maintained then the scientific, technological and strategic competition with the Russians in the midst of the Cold War. Melfi’s movie put on center stage, Katherine Johnson and her professional sisters, actors in the shadows of Glenn and Armstrong and the Mercury and Apollo programs.


The mathematician in her nineties has always been lucid on the role that this group of black women played in the reaching for the stars. But for her there was nothing extraordinary! “I just did my job. NASA had a problem and I had the solution” she said at the film's release[3]. Like Neil Armstrong following his achievement, she remained in the shadows. At most Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. “But, those who worked behind the scenes of this achievement, these women of color employed as “human computers” at the Langley research center, in Hampton, history zapped them. Without Katherine Johnson, the prodigy of numbers, John Glenn would have gone into orbit, but would not have been able to tell us about it. She alone knew about calculating his flight trajectory for entering into the atmosphere and bringing him back alive”[4].


Without the directors of institutes, the sports sciences professors, the representatives of ministries of youth and sport, our organization would remain at the level of a formal declaration to the United Nations. The time has come to greet and thank all our hidden figures[5]. Admittedly, they did not take us to the moon. Moreover, it was not for them that we asked to pick up the moon. But they allowed us to give reality to the project attempting to support youth sport in the developing countries. They have calculated our trajectories and organized our landings to ensure that our welcome might be the best that it could be in the member states of our organization.


From 2007 to 2017, our hidden figures, the Focal Persons and the national representatives of the Secretary-General, have been true liaison officers and played the full range of the diplomatic roles identified by the major international organizations. Their representation activity, the nature of the roles played has evolved during the period, depending on our policy, our diplomacy and cultural, political, technological and financial factors inherent to the member states. This development led to a diversity of roles.


These women and men became informed and assimilated the missions and possible actions of our intergovernmental organization (IGO) in their country. In turn, they informed the national interlocutors. The CONFEJES seminar in Saly in Senegal, has been the founding moment of this first role. They ensured the transition of IGO on the education and training issue through sport to the SDGs and played the role of Secretary-General’s representative in their country.


Then, they have taken an advocacy role finding the good arguments in favor of our organization to convince their interlocutors. It was sports advocacy to the teachers and students of the national institutes of youth and sports, of sports sciences faculties in their country. It was an advocacy to the ministries of sports administration and especially to the minister of sports. They have also represented the Secretary-General to a diversity of interlocutors of the childhood, youth and sports world: UNICEF, National Olympic Committee, federations, clubs, etc.


The « Letter of framing » delivered by the Secretary-General allowed them to also ensure a diplomatic advocacy. They have represented the Secretary-General to other ministers, in charge of higher education, health, and foreign affairs. Some of them have met Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Republic to advocate the IGO’s cause. Others have presented the IGO to national media.


Thanks to their knowledge of the national and local networks, some collaborators even have introduced the public-private partnerships (PPP) to the dedicated ministries. They became then an essential link in the negotiation of commercial and industrial partnerships. Some of them have been missioned to the Ministers holder of the WSA-IGO file to lead some inter-ministerial commissions gathering all the relevant departments (agriculture, energy, water, sports, foreign affairs, Prime Ministers, Presidencies, etc.). These inter-ministerial tasks went evidently beyond the competences of sports staff, instructed to represent the Secretary-General in their country. However, the Focal Persons who have taken this role revealed some competencies, unsuspected by themselves.


When we were on a mission in their country, they always ensured administrative and logistic support to the organization. To do that, our hidden figures surrounded themselves with liaison teams. These teams were the first incarnation of an IGO’s liaison office with a task distribution within it. They provided the official organization’s representatives with the necessary logistics to ensure the achievement of the mission objectives and ensure its success. This liaison team included up to a dozen persons to perform the following tasks: agenda elaboration with the relevant ministries, Prime Minister and Presidency, formal and informal delegation’s agenda implementation, administrative logistics, management of the public and private delegation members’ travels, etc.


Following the missions, most of the liaison teams remained available to assist the General Secretariat for the objectives' achievement. They facilitated the permanent communication between the General Secretariat and the ministries of youth and sport, of foreign affairs or relevant ministries by PPPs. Our hidden figures have undertaken information collection on youth, sport and SDGs development in the country. They provided reports suitable to be published in the collection “Sports, Societies and Development” of the World Centre of Excellence Physical Education, Sports, Leisure and SDGs (WCEPESL-SDGs) that works under the aegis of the IGO-WSA’s General Secretariat.


The weakness of the financial, material and human situation of the General Secretariat has led to the adoption of some realistic communication strategies with the national correspondents. Classically, a liaison office assumes its information function by means of a documentation center on the organization and its programs. This documentation function has been minimally managed, providing a basic set of documents to the local representatives in order to allow them to respond to the institutional or individual requests and to the national media and disseminate the IGO’s publications.

Information technologies

The spread of the Internet, including in Africa, permitted the maintaining of constant relations. Nevertheless, the frequent lack of fixed telephone lines in Africa, the important development of mobiles phones and the lack of computers on this continent induced the General Secretariat to prioritize the communication through mobile lines. Thus, the mobile phone has been the major tool of the message transmissions between the General Secretariat, the Focal Persons and their teams, who used cybercafés – a kind of ephemeral liaison office – to receive information digitally. The General Secretariat made available to the Focal Persons a virtual library, however crude. It orientated them towards the knowledge sharing sites on education to SDGs through sport, notably the IOG’s website.


Let us borrow from Katherine Johnson her response to the journalist of the Washington Post, to specify the work undertaken by our hidden figures: “They just did their work. The IGO had a problem and they had the solution”. Unlike that, all performed all these tasks, mostly on a volunteer basis, hoping that one day our rocket Saturn V would successfully take off launching our mission. Unfortunately, we did not manage to operate the reactors. However, we know that a big number of them remain ready and available. If they accept the proposal, they will become heads of the liaison offices that the organization should inevitably create in its 33 member states.


At the time of concluding this first blog series, I am genuinely grateful for some of the activists of the cause of youth sports promotion in the developing countries. It would be too long and tedious to assess all that we owe to them, all that we will owe to them. The debt is huge. Over these ten years, they have been professional relationships. They have become some watchtowers, watching every event that could help us to formalize our initiative in their country. Some have become friends, brothers and sisters in arms. Those that one wants to promote, or help when they are in need. I would like in a few key words or expressions to summarize my path taken with these faithful ones and expressing to all of them my friendship and my recognition.


Pierre, the professor, the physiologist, health through sport, studies in Grenoble, a meeting at UNESCO, the Rabat seminar, the go-between towards the directors of African institutes, the go-between towards Youssouf Fall and CONFEJES, the first African master in sports sciences, the courses in Porto Novo, the hopes for the village, for the Adjarra’s young people, the work in region, the prefects of Mono Couffo and Ouémé Plateau, the management of an inter-ministerial commission, the weakness of our model, the mandatory move towards the chamber of commerce and industry, welcome in the family, etc.


Togba, king’s great-grandson, the faithfulness, the devotion, until ending up in difficulty, the military, the junta, seven ministers of sports, Doctor Diallo, bags of bio-fertilizers, Alpha Yaya Diallo camp, a first Lady, waiting in the ministries antechambers, lack of air conditioning, Independence Grand Hotel, the national institute of sports, a library with two books, one old dictionary and his PhD thesis defended in Cuba, a basket backboard of which remains the iron circle, boxing, the Olympic committee, the loss of employment, the galley, etc.


Nicodème, the Independence, flies the flag of a young nation, Conference of the ministers of sport, works on the handicap, convinces the minister, memorable, a routine attention, prays for the success, how many ministries, from sports to agriculture including energy, transport, the President of the Republic in Ngozi, insatiable holder of messages, the crocodile of the Tanganyka lake, so much humility, an incredible energy, discrete elegance, consistency and firmness, expectation for the family, his son Elvis, Canada, etc.


Imirane, first mission, first drafts, debriefing at the Niger hotel, wrestling, horse race, strength and warmth, servant of the state, the collaboration with the architects, Ali Bouramah who will become CONFEJES Secretary General, activist of the social causes, waiting for democracy, the mosquitoes of Niger, skewers of the Niger hotel, cross the country in 4x4 drive, it would crazy now, welcome in the family, the organization of major events, etc.


Domingo, the Hispanic world, meeting in Colombia, INDE, publishing house, the documentation of the world centre of excellence, the wonderful Catalonia’s Institute of Sports, the Catalonia’s membership, the economic power open-up on Latin America, from Costa Rica to Chile and through Argentina, a global vision and intervention, etc.


Taïb, meeting in Casablanca, student, brilliant and lively, a smile always, the Rabat seminar, football and health, the organization’s founding movie, a kingpin, Royal College, a story of sardine, the suitable network, a famous gymnast, the young people at the gymnasium, a group of sports activists, no means, a lot of heart, the friend Moussa, the heart on the hand, the little Xhali, the diplomacy, the university, the management at the heart, Royal Academy, a great future, the sports sciences in the Arab world with Fredj in Tunisia, etc.


Constant, the training, the students, the Belgian filiation, the Tata Raphael stadium, meeting in Paris, on the road for New York, Athanase and the Frantz Fanon’s revolver, modesty and loyalty, discretion and efficiency, the Congo basin, the confidence of a great minister, take all the steps, the council of ministers, the inter-ministerial commissions, the state complexity, Kinshasa the beautiful, the sanitization of a city world, hope of conclusion, rebuild a faculty, 200 sports centres for young people, the affair in the hands of negotiators, business first, the relations becoming strained, etc.


And then, there is all those with whom the adventure left an almost unfinished taste: Assane in memory of Mamadou N’Dao, Clément and the Oubangui river, Nicolas in the land of cocoa beans and elephants, Raul, the grapes and the Aconcagua, José and the open-up on Brazil, Kallie from Mandela’s country, Richard passed away too soon, Valiollah and the Haiti suffering, Lucien, the red island and its baobabs, Maria Eugenia and Central America, Benoît so closed from Burundi, Alassane and the hope of Mali, Fahti for the sport in emergency situation in the Gulf of Aden. A feeling of an unfinished situation because our intervention remained unsolved for multifactorial reasons. For ten years, the world has been shaken, destabilized, the IOG experienced difficulties of finding the path to investors.


Returning to the step of a giant. The promotion of Youth sports assumes making a giant step. Alone against all you cannot do anything. You must work in a group. From Zoulikha to Youssouf, from Pierre to Fredj, from decision makers to hidden figures, during ten years, they were our supports and our relays in the promotion of youth sport in the developing states. We are all committed in a relay race in which the oldest transmit the baton to the youngest. The metaphor of the baton is far from new. From my time in the sociology of sciences, I am still touched by this quote of the sociologist Robert K. Merton during his speech to the American Sociological Society in 1957 dedicated to “Priorities in the scientific discovery”. A quote that he goes into in his book both humoristic and serious: On the shoulders of Giants[6]. In his conference and his book, he analyzes the title quote referring to Isaac Newton who explains his discoveries thus: “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.


In this adventure in favor of youth sport, we settled on the shoulders of some giants, so that in their turn the young people settle on our own shoulders, to see farther so that the access to youth sport moves from a formal right to an immediate reality. But after all, it may be that for each of us, the essential thing lies more in the process than in the result. But not for young people waiting for concrete results, commitments and achievements. At the General Secretariat, we still have and always will have the conviction binding together body and soul, that we will without respite stand on the shoulders of other giants and hold on our own shoulders our relays in a beautiful pyramid to finally concretize the SDGs promotion through sport, in favour of youth in the developing countries.

Have a great summer everyone!

[1] The mission Mercury-Atlas 6 is a manned spatial mission taking part of the Mercury program, following the Americans’ initiative. Launched on 20th February 1962, it is operated by the astronaut John Glenn, who realized three orbits around the earth. He became the first American to make an orbital flight.
[2] In the United States, the 1960s are well described by Jacques Portes in Retour sur les sixties (2007), BDIC: “In 1960, the television screens are in black and white, the country squeezed in the cold war and the social standards remain conventional (…) The racial segregation, questioned since 1954, is still legal in most of the South states and the Blacks (…) are in subordinate positions in the social life and the professional world. The traditional family is the heart of the society and the birth rate is higher than the one of the other developed countries; the American model lies in the lifestyle of the white staff living in comfortable suburban homes, with children who play in the street bordered by lawns”.
[3] Washington Post, ‘Hidden’ no more: Katherine Johnson, a black NASA pioneer, finds acclaim at 98,
[4] Elle, Published on 2d March 2017,
[5] The Focal persons and Secretary General’s representatives in the member states are presented here in the chronological order of the WSA membership:  Taïb Bennani (Morocco), Imirane Maïga (Niger), Sitali Mayamba (Zambia), Donald Rukaré (Uganda), Togba Pivi (Guinea), Pierre Dansou (Benin), Guillermo Goff (Panama), Assane Fall (Senegal), Mahama Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Eric Madjié Amenounve (Togo), Clément Gbavro (Central African Republic), Nicolas Guiehoa (Ivory Coast), Raul Santana (Chile), José Brandao Neto (Brazil), Kallie Van Deventer (South Africa), Richard Oniangué then Jean Itoua Okemba (Congo), Valliolah Gilmus (Haiti), Lucien Bezaka Brutho (Madagascar), Etmonia David Tarpeh (Liberia), Maria Eugenia Jenkins (Costa Rica), Constant Nkiama Ekisawa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Heleona Soulgan (Chad), Nicodème Kamurari (Burundi), Domingo Blazquez (Catalonia), Benoît Nkurunziza (Rwanda), Alassane Mariko (Mali), Fredj Bouslama (Tunisia), Cleveroy Thomas (Antigua & Barbuda), Michael Rowe (Sierra Leone), Fahti Al-Sakaf (Yemen), José Dacunha (Guinea Bissau).
[6] Merton R. K. (1965), On the Shoulders of Giants: The Post-Italianate Edition, university of Chicago Press.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Light and shadow (1) - Dr. Gilles Klein

Light and shadow (1)

Dr. Gilles Klein, 16 June 2017

“The fifth planet was very strange. It was the smallest of all. There was just enough room on it for a street lamp and a lamplighter. The little prince was not able to reach any explanation of the use of a street lamp and a lamplighter, somewhere in the heavens, on a planet which had no people, and not one house. But he said to himself, nevertheless: "It may well be that this man is absurd. But he is not so absurd as the king, the conceited man, the businessman, and the tippler. For at least his work has some meaning. When he lights his streetlamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep. That is a beautiful occupation. And since it is beautiful, it is truly useful."[1]


In 2007, at the time of launching ourselves on this adventure of Youth sports promotion, we knew that we should switch on lights continuously and everywhere such as the Little Prince’s lamplighter who travels around a crazy and irresponsible planet that is turning more and more rapidly. We knew also that there would be many parts in the shadows. We want to remember here the work of those who are in the light, but also the anonymous ones who are in the shadows but may be at the origin of possible enlightenment. Without overlooking the shadows cast by some whistleblowers on hypothetical perils that would endanger our initiative. More than light, the work in the shadow was then synonymous with fires that needed putting out.


We have come a long way, not the whole planet, but many African and Latin American countries. To assume our mission, we always coordinated light and shadow. That is why, to finish this first blog series, I would like to pay tribute to some lights and some shadows, all positive, which enlightened our path or walked alongside us. I would like then to greet and thank all the women and men who, on the stage or behind the scenes, believed in our initiative, supported and still support our project. I won’t be able to greet all of them. I chose a sample of the most important people, all symbolic of our attempt to switch on street lamps to enlighten youth sport.


The word “light” attracts us inexorably towards the expression “Age of Enlightenment” that designates the XVIIIth century. For our non-European readers “Enlightenment” is a literary and philosophical movement of the XVIIIth century founded on a reason that allows, according to the Enlightenment philosophers, to move beyond prejudices and intolerance and to advance humans towards happiness, freedom, and knowledge. Amongst the Enlightenment philosophers and writers’ struggles is the fight against injustice and ignorance. They defend individual and collective freedoms, notably, freedom of expression. It is through education and thanks to knowledge diffusion that humans will have access to freedom and happiness. In this perspective, the philosophers undertook writing the major work of the XVIIIth century that is the Encyclopedia (1751-1772), a dictionary that constitutes the sum of knowledge and new ideas at that time.


Montesquieu was one of the major authors of the Encyclopedia. In his work, the education issue is central. Let us quote from book IV of “The Spirit of the Laws” (1748): “In our days we receive three different or contrary educations, namely, of our parents, of our masters, and of the world. What we learn in the latter effaces all the ideas of the former. This, in some measure, arises from the contrast we experience between our religious and worldly engagements, a thing unknown to the ancients”. To achieve our mission, we have retained Montesquieu’s lesson on the education that the world teaches. Let's mention two of our guides who taught these lessons and enlightened the road of youth sports promotion.


Madam Zoulikha Nasri, President of the Foundation Mohammed V for solidarity in Morocco and adviser to His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, was following in the footsteps of the Enlightenment and the conquest of freedom and happiness through education and knowledge diffusion. She was a “Great Lady” of World Sports Alliance. Nine years after the creation of our organization, on Wednesday 16th December, she died after serving for almost twenty years at the Royal Palace and worked in favor of the social cause. Let us pay tribute to the presentation that made her and her work the Jeune Afrique’s journalist, Nadia Lamilli[2]: “She had an affinity for the social issues and the life circumstances of the Moroccans. Coming from a humble background, she knows well the topics linked to poverty and social exclusion for having lived in this Oriental a long time excluded from Morocco’s development plans”.


“In 1999, she is then the right person for launching the Foundation Mohammed V for the solidarity, a royal and sprawling NGO, that undeniably changed the face of Morocco and rooted the face of a Mohammed VI “king of the poor” (…) One of the innovative projects of the Foundation Mohammed V is “Dar Taliba” or the student house. These are residential schools built in the far off corners of Morocco that welcome the rural girls in school period (…) Thanks to “Dar Taliba” thousands of Moroccan girls may have been schooled (…) A range of Foundation’s missions goes from academic support to access to micro-credit. The elderly persons, women, Moroccan community living abroad, handicapped persons… Mohammed VI has weaved, thanks to this foundation and Zoulikha Nasri’s action, a large network of support among all persons in the situation of exclusion”.


In this context of access to education for all, Madam Nasri has been our interlocutor for access of youth to sport, the creation of a world centre of excellence in physical education, sports, leisure – SDGs, the organization of the Rabat experts’ seminar, the creation of our intergovernmental organization and its formal launching to the United Nations. Her mission had been defined by His Majesty the King Mohammed VI in His address to United Nations – ECOSOC in July 2006[3]. Indeed, six years following the Dar Taliba’s launching and the action in favor of student girls, the King Mohammed VI wished to promote sports in relationships to the Millennium Development Goals. He considered sport as a means of achieving these universal goals, notably through the achievement of Youth’s social integration, the prevention of deviant behaviors and the teaching of healthy habits, or more the impact on the school performances of children and young people.


The king had set four orientations to the Foundation and Madam Nasri for the success of the cooperation between Morocco and World Sports Alliance. The first referred to the values: sport is an asset for SDGs achievement. Particularly, a vector of human development, social cohesion and the fight against exclusion and marginalization. The second should allow the enlargement of the practice of sport and favor access to it for all. We then made a bet: favoring Youth’s grassroots sport, one promotes a sports culture and one set up a sporting tank for the country. The third referred to staff training: the opening of a national center of excellence sport- SDGs should re-energize sports staff training, notably with the support of the Royal Institute of staff training (IRFC).


The fourth had as its objective the construction of sports community centers. We had considered the construction of socio-sport community centers in the neighborhoods and rural areas. The Minister of Education then talked about 1000 centers to be built in Morocco. That fourth orientation was not the least because it allowed the launching of our socio-economical model of our organization based on the public-private partnerships.


Educate African Youth to SDGs through sport, build sports community centers: His Majesty and Madam Nasri had marked out our path. A great face of African sport would give to these two projects an impetus on a continental scale, more generally in Francophonie. In 2007, Youssouf Fall has been the great ambassador who gave credit to our initiative and provided us with a major springboard. From 2005 to 2013, he was Secretary-General of the Conference of the Ministers of Youth and sports of countries sharing the use of French (CONFEJES).


Let us trace his career in four dates. Paris. 10th April 2005. He is elected Secretary-General of the CONFEJES for a four-years mandate. Bujumbura. 24th March 2009. The 32nd Conference of Ministers. He is unanimously renewed by the 31 attendee ministers for a new four-years mandate. Niamey. 12th March 2013. The President of the Republic of Niger, H.E. Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou, confers on him the title of Commander of the National Order of Merit of Niger “for the services provided to CONFEJES during his two mandates”. Paris. 19th February 2014. The Secretary-General of Francophonie, H.E. Mr. Abdou Diouf awarded him the Senghor medal that is the highest distinction of Francophonie.


Youssouf Fall has been a great sportsman in his country, Mauritania. Physical education teacher, former international basketball player and national team captain, he is the first Mauritanian obtaining a high degree in sports. Like Madam Nasri, he worked very much for the youth of his country and social integration through sport. In the 90s, he collaborated on the “Diass project” supported by France and fought against the powerful merchants, speculators, politicians and businessmen who attempted to transform the playgrounds of young people into a shopping mall. Thus, it is thanks to him, that young people and sportsmen from Nouakchott, use the stadiums built in the nine Moughataa of the capital.


His work at CONFEJES was unanimously greeted by the ministers of sports of this organization as follows: “His work at CONFEJES has always been marked by a remarkable efficiency, a prospective vision and a work capacity which have largely contributed, along eight years, to the excellent reputation of CONFEJES within Francophonie and outside”. After having been an expert within the organization for 16 years, in charge of the organization’s executive, he has left a considerable legacy. He contributed to promoting Youth, sports and leisure programs within the Conference’s member states. He gave a greater visibility to the francophone organization. He undertook the administration's modernization and earned the trust of the financial backers. He reinforced the cooperation with the francophone institutions, notably through his contribution to the Francophonie Games and the other international organizations.


Saly-Portudal. Senegal. 12 - 16 November 2007. The CONFEJES’s Secretary-General invites World Sports Alliance to present the intergovernmental organization’s project to the permanent consultative commission on high staff training. That commission gathered then thirty directors of francophone national institutes of physical education and sport and the ministries representatives. This seminar has been the opportunity of an effective start of our initiative in Africa, more generally in the francophone world.


Following this seminar, the cooperation between CONFEJES and WSA produced two major effects. 27th March 2008. Nouakchott. Mauritania. The first effect has been the signature of a partnership convention between the two organizations, signed in the framework of the CONFEJES Bureau. It had as main objectives: to promote the cooperation in favor of sport to the MDGs achievement; to reinforce the national strategies of human resources development; to implement in the francophone world the national centers of excellence that Madam Nasri introduced some months ago by the United Nations. The second effect has been the membership and the cooperation with 18 francophone states which became World Sports Alliance’s member states.


In Saly, one could measure as well as the enthusiasm, the availability of directors for a project able to combine sports education and financing of Youth sport in the developing countries. All expressed interest. Some congratulated us. Others told us the story of the white elephant[4] which came from India but was very well used in Africa and warned us against the difficulty of the passage from promise to reality. Many accompanied us during a decade of attempting to implement our initiative in their countries. They constitute our “Hidden Figures » who we will thank in the next and last episode of this series.

Next: 23th June 2017 – Light and Shadow (2)
[1] Saint Exupéry, 1999, Le Petit Prince, Chapter XIV. First edition in 1945, Edition in compliance with the American edition (1943), Collection Folio (n° 3200), Gallimard.
[2] Maroc : ce qu’il faut retenir de Zoulikha Nasri, ex-conseillère de Mohammed VI,, 16th December 2015, by Nadia Lamilli
[3] Address by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco to the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Geneva, 5 July 2006.
[4] The expression is related to practical realizations remaining economically or realizations more fanciful, even irrational. It relates as well to works that never end and are technical or economical failures.

Friday, June 9, 2017

One risk and two obvious things - Dr. Gilles Klein

One risk and two obvious things

Dr. Gilles Klein, 09 June 2017

29th May 2017 – 29th May 2007. Exactly ten years ago before the time of writing, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (UN-ECOSOC) published and distributed the “Declaration submitted by the Foundation Mohammed V, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council”. Through Mrs. Zoulikha Nasri’s voice[1], who was then President of the Foundation and adviser to His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, this solemn declaration in favor of Youth sport had been presented at the ECOSOC Substantive Session of July 2007

His Majesty

Under the high patronage of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, the Foundation Mohammed V for solidarity brought then before the international civil society this project facilitating the access of young people of developing countries, educating Youth and training their staff through sport to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Some goals that became in 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One year had been required to build this project supported since 5th July 2006 by His Majesty Mohammed VI in those terms: “I wish you every success and would like, once again, to underline the keen interest I take in the projected World Sport Alliance. Morocco looks forward to discussing the implementation modalities of this commendable initiative within the framework of the United Nations Economic and Social Council”[2].


Then, on 3rd July, the United Nations validated the creation of National centers of excellence in physical education, sports and leisure – MDGs (NCEPSL-MDGs) in a significant number of African and Latin American countries and announced the creation of a World center of excellence (WCEPESL-MDGs) ensuring the coordination of the national bodies. It was my honor to serve as chairman of this centre of which World Sports Alliance would supply the logistics. Ten years following the Rabat Declaration, the time has come to report on the progress underlining one risk and two obvious things underpinning our initiative aiming to bring support to Youth sport in the world.


Let us start with the risk. When one claims to promote access to Youth in sport, the risk is, and always will be, remaining at the level of discourse, further delaying a necessary moving on towards action. Let us explain. In 2007, the Rabat Declaration is published in a specific context of Youth sport in the world, a context marked by two geopolitical milestones which all of us remember, that I summarize as a “wall issue”: 1989-2008, from the fall of the Berlin wall to the Wall Street crisis. In brief, most countries adopt standards of the “New public management”. In all areas – health, education, justice – numerical targets have been introduced and profitability established as standard. The powerful Social Democrat Welfare State of the 60s and 70s, slides towards a model of Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal state.


Relating to sport, my academic works of the 1990s and 2000s on this issue summarized the situation as following. At the beginning of the 21st century, the more the populations’ needs are increasing (ageing, sedentariness, overweight, obesity, social integration, handicaps, gender equality, sports results, etc.) more the public supply of physical activity is tending to be reduced (optional physical education, time reduction, subject matter and teachers’ status, facilities and budgets, staff training, gap between physical education and sport, etc.). To solve that contradiction, from scientific congress to scientific congress, with some colleagues, documented and convinced experts, we urged the national authorities of all the countries to avoid staying at the discourse level on the promotion of Youth sport and effectively moving towards action through strong-willed development policies in this area.


Admittedly, the national decision makers which we addressed ourselves to were themselves convinced of the need for moving towards action. Let us briefly remember the development of their concerns over five decades. Since the 1970s, on UNESCO’s initiative, the ministers and high level servants of physical education and sport met regularly to assess the worldwide situation of these areas and recommend the necessary measures to define the appropriate policies. The first assembly MINEPS I met in Paris in 1976. In 1978, UNESCO published the international Charter of physical education and sport, of which we keep in mind the first article: “The practice of physical education and sport is a fundamental right for all - Every human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport, which are essential for the full development of his personality. The freedom to develop physical, intellectual and moral powers through physical education and sport must be guaranteed both within the educational system and in other aspects of social life”. But between 1978 and 2004, the ministers were faced with a contradiction. They didn’t stop to recalling that right, but from worldwide summit to worldwide summit, stated that it was not respected.


That is why, since MINEPS III, Punta del Este in 1999, they wanted to move to practical action and translate the charter of physical education and sport into action. It is precisely in this context of moving into action, put on record in 2007 through the Rabat Declaration. In its own way, it means raising funds on the financial markets, without requesting it from the member states, it would then make a contribution to help the ministers and high-level civil servants to act and avoid talking about it. For the founders of the initiative, to promote Youth sport started then to raise funds, notably through developing public-private partnerships with the member states that World Sports Alliance might propose to federate. On its own terms the promise of action taken in Rabat anticipated the work of the ministerial summit MINEPS 2013 which took place in Berlin. We were on the right path. Let us appreciate it!


In Berlin, the work of three thematic commissions is echoed in the Berlin Declaration, unanimously adopted by the 121 represented states. The Declaration agrees 70 commitments and recommendations related to three topics. The first is to better foster everyone’s access to physical education and sport. The second is to increase investment in physical education and sport. The third is to take the appropriate measures to safeguard sport integrity. Commission 1 enhanced the World Sports Alliance’s project to facilitate access of youth to sport. Some attendees insisted on access to physical education and sport as a right. Particularly for women and handicapped persons. By contrast, others noted that there was substantial work to be done to translate that political rhetoric into tangible programmes at the national level.


The work of Commissions 1 and 2 confirmed also our project to raise funds. For the members of Commission 1, access to sport depends mainly on the investments that are dedicated. Investment is THE problem that handicaps moving into action. That is why, in Berlin, Commission 1 turns to Commission 2, in charge of financing. Access to physical education and sport depends on investments, on availability of facilities and equipment. The statement applies also to teacher training. A method is mentioned: conclude partnerships. Commission 1 made proposals as well. Within a government, to develop inter-ministerial actions, for example through public-private partnerships. Commission 1 concludes: without these cooperation initiatives, neither the MINEPS V recommendations, and neither physical education nor sport will ever become realities in the 193 United Nations member states.


29th May 2007 - 29th May 2017. Within this Alliance’s General-Secretariat we spared no effort in implementing this project of international mobilization in favour of Youth sport and ensuring the launching of this world centre of excellence. On the way, we kept some traces of these efforts that are summarized in a few numbers. We phoned and emailed a lot: to build a network gathering more than 600 experts in sports sciences, mainly in the areas of education, health and gender, to create 33 NCEPESL-SDGs, to follow the diplomatic relations with 33 member states with more than 12,000 interventions on the network created by the General-Secretariat, gathering experts and ministers, to inspire the curiosity of 13,000 followers on the social networks. We talked a lot: 33 key notes and conferences explaining our model and our actions. We wrote a lot: a 3200 pages logbook; 4 programmes Sport-SDGs on education of young people and staff training; 5 collections of books on sport education, sports sciences and WSA’s member states; 18 articles in international journals; 22 articles on this blog named « Give some Oxygen ».


There would be much to be said, a lot to write about on the access to Youth sport, the originality of the socio-economic model, the projects to be implemented in the Alliance’s member states, the inspiration to be taken from the states leading a true sport diplomacy. We can think about the United States of America with the roles of high level sporting ambassadors operating in foreign countries, attending tournaments with young people, and the organization of American youth camps in the framework of sports academies opened to young people coming from all the continents. We can think about Qatar and its fantastic Aspire Zone gathering an academy for young people, a hospital for sportsmen and women as well as high level sport facilities and equipment.


Our boxes are overflowing with projects. Let us name seven of them. The creation of a platform of well-being and sport to put in touch the customers’ demands and the trainers’ supplies on individualized training programmes. The creation of a sport academy opened to the young sportsmen and women of the Alliance’s member states. The indexation of sports action in favour of SDGs. The creation of a sport centre with a global outlook able to welcome major international sports events. The creation of a hospital structure specialized in the treatment of injuries and fitness programmes for sportsmen and women. The implementation of liaison offices in the 33 member states. The implementation of the organizations’ headquarters.


There are now the two obvious things! “Give some Oxygen” is the title of this blog. It was also our project focused on the young people of the developing countries. We need to tell the truth of the matter. At the time of this tenth anniversary we didn’t produce the necessary Oxygen to finance Youth sport in the 33 organization’ member states. In a manner of speaking, in our turn, we fell into the trap pointed out by the ministers in Punta del Este in 1999: less talking and more action. It would be too severe to apply to us this maxim of Gustave Le Bon, anthropologist, physician, psychologist and sociologist: “The weak wills are translated by discourses; the strong wills by actions”. This maxim is too over-simplistic. Life is more complex, less dichotomous than that.

Obvious thing

In our situation, the first obvious thing we have to point out is as follows: our thinking, our analysis and our writings, our tireless conviction and willingness are only the dressing of our true capacity to act, i.e. our capacity to mobilize the investments to finance the effective implementation of our projects. Until there is investment dedicated to Youth sport, is it reasonably useful to continue to talk or write about?


That is why this article is the penultimate of this blog, at least of this first series. The next series depends on the effectiveness of our actions. The final delivery will be dedicated to thanking the women and men who, in the light or shadow, believed in our project and have placed their trust in us. We will find our writing path to describe the diversity of our effective implementations.


To conclude, let us affirm the second obvious thing. As others we have a dream, but we are still awake. Awake for the development of Youth sport, for the development of Africa, the continent of the XXIst century. To understand this dream, thanking Julien Brygo[3], let us look at the fields of the National Basket Association (NBA) in the United States. This author publishes an excellent article dedicated to that sport which he summarizes thus: “With around thirty million occasional players, Basket-ball is one of the most popular sports in the United States. Depending on whether it is performed on the Chicago Bulls’ floor, in the street of a black township or in the university of a small city in Indiana, can take very disparate social functions”. Let us name some excerpts.


He describes the billboards of the outfitter Nike surrounding the grounds of this prestigious league: “Come from nowhere”; “Here, you are judged on your acts, not on your beliefs or your appearance”; “The ball should rebound for everyone”. He examines the NBA’s social function: “Looked and imitated everywhere in the world, the league exalts the American dream of the meritocracy” (…) “But is it possible for a child born in an unprivileged neighborhood to access to NBA”.


He tells this story illustrating the American dream through basketball: “Seated on his bed in a well orderly bedroom a black kid contemplates the flag of his favorite team, the New York Knicks. He wears the Kristaps Porziņģis’ jersey, a Latvian player recruited in 2015 for 6,5 million US dollars, who lends his voice to a publicity of the National Association of basket-ball: “It’s always been my dream, since I was a kid. I took the ball in my hands and I did never turn back. In the end, if you work hard, everything becomes possible, even for a player coming from a small Latvian village”.


America particularly appreciates these social stories. We dreamt of writing ours by giving access to the practice of sport to so many young people of the unprivileged neighborhoods of the developing countries. If we didn’t achieve it, we are still believing in our American dream: “If you work hard, everything becomes possible”.

Next: 16th June 2017 – Light and Shadow

[1] Mrs. Zoulikha Nasri of which I would like once more greeting her memory and pay tribute to her tremendous achievements and legacy

[2] Address by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco to the High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Geneva, 5 July 2006.
[3] Julien Brygo, Le rêve américain au miroir du basket-ball, Le Monde diplomatique, June 2017, pp 4-5.