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Expert panel attendees at the Commonwealth Round-table on Sport and Sustainable Development.

Commonwealth experts to ensure sport makes strong contribution to sustainable development

8 April 2016

Sport experts and evaluation specialists from across the Commonwealth met this week at Marlborough House, the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, for a two-day roundtable to consider ways to evaluate the contribution that sport makes to sustainable development.

Attendees representing governments, intergovernmental and development organisations, the sport sector, as well as academics and other specialists, shared best practices, to agree upon recommendations for presentation at the 8th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting in August, 2016.

Commenting on the high-level deliberations, the Commonwealth’s Head of Sport for Development and Peace, Oliver Dudfield, said “Participants strongly endorsed that the Sustainable Development Goal targets and proposed indicators provide a key reference point to guide evaluation approaches in relation to Sport for Development and Peace.

“There was also agreement of the value of a framework to monitor the implementation of key international charters and declarations related to sport policy and Sport for Development and Peace”, he said.

The Commonwealth Secretariat works to support member states to strengthen Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) policy frameworks and coordination mechanisms. Previous work in this area reveals that effectiveness in being able to monitor and evaluate SDP related policy is a common challenge faced by member states.

Highlighting outcomes agreed at the roundtable, Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, commented “Attendees emphasised the importance of aligning with and learning from existing monitoring and evaluation approaches in policy areas where sport-based approaches can make a contribution, such as youth development, health, education and community building.

“With these considerations in mind, a number of participants recommended member countries consider developing a national framework and strategy that identifies key development goals to which sport can contribute, and include common monitoring and evaluation approaches in this framework," she said.

There was agreement that any positioning of sport-based approaches in broader development discussions must be underpinned by robust programme theories and contextual analysis of the evidence base of the contribution sport can make.

The delegates agreed that there is a clear need for policy makers, public officials, researchers and implementers to collaborate more effectively, both to design robust evaluation but also to strengthen Sport for Development and Peace policy and practice more broadly.

Earlier this week, policy experts, academics and a Commonwealth Games medallist participated in the inaugural Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development to mark the third International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, held at the South Africa High Commission in central London.

“Commonwealth Governments have consistently recognised the potential for sport as a catalyst for human and social development and to promote respect and understanding”, said newly appointed Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, who opened the event.

Leading the debate, Dr Temo K Waqanivalu who heads the Population-based Prevention Unit at the World Health Organisation, commented “If you are looking for evidence of how sport contributes to sustainable development, the best evidence is around health, physical activity in particular. Also, this is the sustainable development outcome that has a double edge to it.”

“It’s not only at the end of good sustainable development that you get health – and sports can play a big role in that – but health is also the very means and the resources that countries and people need to be able to actually achieve sustainable development goals,” he said.

Also contributing to the event, Dr Oscar Mwaanga, Associate Professor at the University of Southampton Solent, noted “What the Commonwealth is doing, which I think is fantastic, is to integrate (SDP into) other disciplines and policy areas so we can focus our work much more effectively.”

Gymnast Francesca Jones, who has represented Wales at three successive Commonwealth Games, winning seven medals, and who also won the accolade of ‘Most Inspirational Athlete’ at Glasgow 2014, said “I’ve formed (through sport) an appreciation of hard work, persistence, respect, teamwork and fair play. I strive to be the best I can be in all aspects of life. And, I know how to set goals to achieve this. My character is something sport has given to me.”

 “Sport has given me the ability to cope with anything that life throws at me”, she said.

Also speaking in the debate, about the contribution that sport can play in achieving a variety of development outcomes, were Professor Myles Wickstead from King’s College, University of London, Dr Bella Bello Bitugu, Director of Sport at the University of Ghana, and Lucy Fagan, policy advisor at the Royal College of Nursing.

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