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Balance programming and policy reform to maximise sports contribution to SDGs

25 July 2019

An enhanced focus on policy reform and scaling access to sport for development programmes will maximise sport’s contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

That is according to the Commonwealth’s head of sport for development and peace, Oliver Dudfield.

He was speaking at a Wilton Park debate on the sport’s contribution to the SDGs, focused on SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 16 on peace.

Mr Dudfield stressed that while many sport for development programmes deliver valuable and tangible results, their reach and scale are limited in the context of the targets set in the SDGs.

He said: “For example, after participating in one leading sport for development programme, the number of women and girls who strongly agreed women should be able to earn their money grew from 33 per cent to 63 per cent and the number who knew a place to report violence went from 55 per cent to 87 per cent.

“These, among other results, achieved by this programme make a clear contribution to SDG target 5.1 and 5.2 which are to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.”

However, this programme only operated in a small number of communities across eight countries.

Mr Dudfield said that in many cases current policies and systems make it unfeasible to scale such programmes to a national level and limit access to the benefits of quality sport.

Globally, there is an eight per cent physical activity gap between men and women, which is greater in many countries. Similar inequality exists between urban and rural communities and based on socio-economic status.

He pointed out that regardless of the specific contribution of these programmes to the SDGs, systemic and cultural barriers to sport must be addressed otherwise sport’s contribution will be limited.

Watch Oliver Dudfield's interview from our 'Ask the Expert' series.

Mr Dudfield said that there must be an effective balance between programme-based interventions and policy-level reform in partnerships and investments in the sport for development field.

This, he said, is at the core of the Commonwealth’s work to support member countries in developing and implementing policies to maximise sport’s contribution to their national development priorities and the SDGs.

He said: “This means going beyond vague references to sport contributing to socio-economic development and targeting specific national development priorities and SDG targets where there is evidence that sport can contribute or relate to issues limiting these contributions.

“This intentional sport-based policy can help contributions at scale towards health and wellbeing, quality education and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, while addressing issues such as poor governance and gender inequality.”

Mr Dudfield cited the following examples of countries the Commonwealth has recently provided technical assistance to:

  • Mauritius as part of their efforts to reform the sport system in the country, including implementation of a new development-oriented sport and physical activity policy and monitoring and evaluation system;
  • Botswana in the development of national gender mainstreaming in sport strategy; and
  • Lesotho in the revision and further development of a national policy on sport and recreation.

He urged sport, civil society and private sector stakeholders to increase their focus on collaborations that can deliver impact at a national scale, including a greater partnership with governments to support policies aimed at ‘leaving no one behind’. 

The panel was part of Wilton Park’s event on scaling up sport’s contribution to the SDGs: partnership for impact, organised from 22-24 July in the United Kingdom.

Photo credit: Wilton Park

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