Geneva – Today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is heading to South Africa where one of the most anticipated sporting events in history will begin this Friday. For the very first time ever, the FIFA World Cup will take place on African soil, representing an immense opportunity for positive change in the region. The UN’s strong presence at and around the event will emphasize that while the competition will undoubtedly be fierce, the tournament represents much more than victory and defeat.
For the duration of his stay in South Africa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be accompanied by his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke, who has made public his expectations for positive social change inspired by this World Cup: “My hope is that the 2010 edition of the World Cup leaves a real legacy, not only for South Africa but for the entire continent. I hope that the transformation will long last, with no turning back. All the involved stake-holders will have to ensure this promise.”
Today Mr. Lemke will join the Secretary-General and South African President Zuma at a Gala Dinner organized in the lead-up to the opening of the World Cup for the benefit of efforts to achieve MDG 2, universal primary education. While the Secretary-General will then go on a continental tour bringing him to Burundi, Cameroon, Benin and Sierra Leone, his Special Adviser will visit a number of grassroots projects mobilizing the power of sport to provide hope and assistance to vulnerable individuals and communities in the townships of Johannesburg and Cape Town. This Friday, the Secretary-General will travel back to Johannesburg to attend, together with the Special Adviser, the opening of the tournament taking place at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.
The 2010 World Cup is an opportunity for the UN to support existing and new projects that address the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These projects include, but are not limited to, topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, environmental sustainability, child protection, healthy lifestyles, racism, education and gender equality. It is crucial that these projects develop as sustainable programmes that reach well beyond the month of the World Cup, in order to provide hope and tangible progress for Africa’s future development. It is the UN’s intention to ensure that this objective is achieved, and the Secretary-General’s and his Special Adviser’s presence at the opening of this historic edition of the World Cup is a testimony to this commitment.
The involvement of the UN in the 2010 FIFA World Cup was made clear in October of 2009 when the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/5 which recognizes the potential of the event for African development, and encourages all member states to become involved. Since then, UN agencies have lined up to use the event’s momentum to drive sustainable development projects. In particular, the creation of the MDG song, “8 Goals for Africa”, represents the collaboration of a variety of UN agencies. The joint initiative to create and launch the song supports the objective of the Secretary-General and the entire UN system to promote the Millennium Development Goals in the five year countdown to 2015 when they are expected to be achieved.
Additionally, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, released an opinion piece last week in the wake of resolution 13/27 adopted by the Human Rights Council in March of this year, calling for the 2010 World Cup to be a “catalyst to call for global action against intolerance and racism”, indicating her expectations for the event.
Under the guidance of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN is increasingly recognizing the potential of sport for development and peace. As Kofi Anan paved the way through his presence at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Mr. Ban will represent the United Nations’ commitment to use sport for positive social change in Africa this month. His presence will be a strong statement that the UN is paying tribute to the host, is committed to support Africa at this time and beyond, and that it will spare no efforts to ensure that the 2010 edition of the FIFA World Cup is remembered as a positive turning point in the history of African development, and in the attainment of the MDGs.