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.

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