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.





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