Transform the world: diplomatic feat!
Dr. Gilles Klein, 16 October 2017
Transforming the world! What's more, by combining sport. The events of the summer show us that the road will be long and arduous. Summer, often supposed to be synonymous with tranquility, and even a kind of lethargic period was only a fresh illustration of the violent world in which we live. From some recent reading, I recall a particularly despairing, though objective, description of this world: "the overexploitation of natural resources, the predation of the economy by finance, the dizzying rise of inequalities of all kinds, mass migration of populations fleeing war or misery, the return of religious fury and hiding of identity, the decline of democracy and the coming to power of strong men with weak ideas ".
How do you want to transform such a world! Yet the global political agenda in the 2030s, launched by the United Nations, raises the hope of real process of transformation that engages both the rulers and the citizens of the planet. By its Article 37, referred to above, the program involves and commits all stakeholders in sports. From the major sports organization, promoter of major events, to the smallest local NGO, a group of children's animators, aid policies to the development of the Northern countries to the ecological, social and governance (ESG) policies and of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) led by transnational companies, all will have to innovate and find solutions. Among the sportspeople, at least those who question the major challenges of the world, some will say: is it really useful to place sport relative to climate change, inequalities between and within countries, employment youth or good governance? Others will question how sport can contribute to universal goals, sustainable development, and peace.
Last August, in London, Usain Bolt’s final lap confirmed it. Sport would be in a position to compete for this universality because of its growing global popularity. This is undeniable. The Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup or the Tour de France are followed by millions, even billions of viewers. This global popularity may suggest that sport is inexorably becoming a kind of universal language, spoken by all and adaptable to any cultural context. But the number does not necessarily construct meaning. By the affluence it generates, can sport really claim the universal? There are two reasons for relativizing something apparently obvious.
Media popularity is not enough to propel sports into a universal dimension. Of course, sports is a good fit with the times when everyone, whether in public or private life, tries to mobilize resources at the right time to achieve the best possible performance. Yet the universality of sport is far from being an obvious fact. From the point of view of Africa, India or Asia, the performing vision of the world remains a long way from certain cultural traditions and local habits.
The universality of sport is also questionable when the organization and culture of world sport continue to promote unethical practices that are necessarily against universality. From the start of this blog, we highlighted the problems of governance in the sports world, including the football global administration or the attribution of major sporting events by small cenacles, rarely representative of the base athletes and involved in conflicts of interests. Some organizations are directly or indirectly involved in corruption processes and scandals, or in the exploitation of young athletes. If these deviations of governance fail to tarnish the positive balance of major organizations, they are a long from the ethics indispensable to a universal position.
For these organizations, it would be tempting to use the universal objectives in a somewhat negative way, that is to compensate for the excesses and to make people forget the scandals. It would be a plaster applied to a wooden leg. Because, in the near future, whatever the stakeholders, all will be forced to define positive and preventive policies in favor of universal objectives, by providing answers to Article 37 of the 2030 program.
An in-depth analysis of the contribution of sport to universal objectives inevitably begins by grasping and understanding the context in which this Article 37 takes place. To this end, I would like to relate two events that took place in New York two years apart. On 25 September 2015, the United Nations program 2030 was voted by the General Assembly, and then disseminated throughout the world. On July 24, 2017, an agreement was signed between the World Sports Alliance and the United Nations Global Sustainable Index Institute, which only a few people were interested in. However, the reconciliation of these events suggests some possible reorientations of the SDP sector.
Let's start with the basics! On September 25, 2015, the world voted therefore in favor of a new and ambitious roadmap for development. It was new! Following the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that accompanied the period 2000 - 2015, seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) organize the future of the approximately 8.5 billion people who will populate the planet at the due date 2030. It's also very ambitious! It is for the United Nations "to transform lives while preserving the planet”.
During the fifteen years of the MDGs era, significant progress has been made. Regarding primary education, the number of school-age children not attending school has been halved. Enrollment in primary education is now universal or almost universal in East Asia and North Africa. Only Sub-Saharan Africa remains far behind. Concerning the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, girls' education has progressed considerably. But gender inequality persists in access to work, economic goods and participation in public and private decision-making. Extreme poverty is reduced by more than half. Successes have been recorded in the fight against hunger and undernourishment. But again, in Africa, progress remains weak, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where nearly one in four people still suffer from hunger.
However, all objectives are far from being met. In his introduction to the 2015 report on the MDGs, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote: "Inequalities persist and progress has been uneven. (...) In 2011, around 60% of the 1 billion extremely poor people in the world lived in only five countries”. In developing countries, important progress must be made on maternal health or access to contraception. In these countries, the maternal mortality rate is fourteen times higher than in the developed regions. 880 million people live in slums. And nearly a billion defecate in the open air. The issue of sustainable development really arises in the global South.
Following an unprecedented diplomatic feat, the seventeen (17) SDGs were elaborated on and voted for by the one hundred and ninety-three (193) countries of the world in September 2015. Since the Declaration of United Nations in 1942, the campaign launched in 2015 is the most successful in bringing the world to optimize health, the quality of life shared and the sustainability of development. Global governance is for many in this diplomatic success! When the MDGs were set by the United Nations and then endorsed by the Member States, the MDGs were the result of a collective effort. Starting with the Rio + 20 Summit in June 2012, nations negotiated for three years involving many stakeholders, including international civil society and the people through a wide-ranging survey.
Therefore, September 25, 2017, is the final stage in the adoption of the seventeen (17) SDGs and their 169 targets by 193 countries. The SDGs include some of the MDGs, the fight against poverty, hunger, health and hygiene, education, gender equality. But there are three major developments. First of all, the issue of sustainable development has made a noteworthy entry with the reduction of inequalities, decent work, and economic growth. Secondly, economic means to promote sustainable development have also been introduced: water, agriculture, telecommunications, energy, transport, buildings, industry, and forests. Finally, the issue of the environment has become very present. When a single MDG referred to it, the health of the planet is now relayed by several objectives: climate, life under the sea, life on earth, clean energies, cities and sustainable communities.
The 2030 program is ambitious! But above all, it will cost a lot. The seventeenth objective "Partnership to achieve these objectives" should be the tool to finance these SDGs. The needs are estimated in thousands of billions of dollars. How to do it when international public funding was only $ 239 billion (213 billion euros) in 2014? How to do it when state official development assistance is declining or stagnating? At the UN Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa in July 2015, the importance of using the private sector was highlighted. This means that in sport, as elsewhere, all stakeholders will have to innovate by inventing new financing means more in line with the global economy. This will require mobilizing all stakeholders around the achievement of SDGs, governments, businesses, and foundations. This is the project of our partner United Nations Global Index Institute (UNGSII).
This brings us back to the second event, July 24, 2017, and the signing of an agreement between our organization and the UNGSII. How does this micro-event relate to the 2030 program and the place of sport in it? Let the initiators present three elements of their project. First, it's timing: "Having shared all the main principles of the Global Sustainability Index at the Davos laboratory in January 2016, the Foundation of the Global Sustainability Index Institute was registered in Liechtenstein on 18 February 2016 ". Second, it's vision. “The UN Global Sustainability Index Institute was founded in Geneva in 2016 to educate, activate and justify (eg., irrefutably and objectively) the results of the countries, companies, foundations and other stakeholders who choose to deploy SDGs in their communities ".
Finally, its objectives: "UNGSII will work with its partners to launch a Global Sustainability Index that demonstrates impact and progress in all sectors through leading-edge scientific data to provide a transparent matrix and rating system for companies, governments, and foundations to measure their success with SDGs. This index will assess whether companies disclose their SDGs impact in their legally binding annual reports ".
One can imagine the importance of such an index for the SDP sector. Governments, businesses, and foundations could make their contribution to SDGs while supporting and funding sports projects in developing countries and elsewhere. The perspective is interesting, precisely because it is universal. The United Nations initiated the Global Sustainability Index Institute. But SDGs are universal in scope and therefore not only for nations but especially for peoples. That is why partnerships with United Indigenous Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union will help move the initiative towards the establishment of an SDG Index Institute. The SDP sector would benefit by closely aligning itself with this universal initiative and this system of evaluation and financing of the SDGs. Is there perhaps one solution to the financing of youth sport?
Next: Monday 23rd October 2017 – Transform the world: how much does it cost?
Supiot, A. (2017) Et si l’on refondait le droit au travail, in Le Monde diplomatique, October 2017, pp. 22-23.
UN General Assembly (UNGA) (2015), Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld
Let us stay today on the record of the MDGs. Physical education, physical activity, and sport during the MDG period will be the subject of an upcoming article.
Ari Eisenstat and David Traub (2017), The Future of Impact Investing: Funding Social Innovation for Sustainable Development, in CSR Index 2017, Edited by: Matthias Vollbracht & Roland Schatz, p. 59.
 Ibid, p. 60.