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Debate probes potential skills gap in sport and sustainable development

3 April 2019

Two teams of experts, athletes and youth leaders will face off this Thursday at the Annual Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development.

The event, in its fourth year, is among the leading policy-focused activities to mark the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, celebrated on 6 April each year.

Panellists will argue for and against the idea that a current gap in skills and knowledge is limiting the contribution of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The debate will probe the potential of sport to transform communities, the need for better training and investment in sports, and whether there is a lack of data showing impact at scale.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will open the debate at Marlborough House in London, with the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation Dame Louise Martin adjudicating.

The Secretary-General said: “As a tool for shaping society in positive ways - in our communities, our nations and our world – sport can, when used effectively, deliver remarkable results. The transformative potential of this multipurpose tool is what has led Commonwealth leaders consistently to champion the value of sport as a catalyst for sustainable development.”

Panellists include the Permanent Secretary for Youth and Sports of Mauritius Maubarakahmad Boodhun, Chair of Sport at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Grant Jarvie, and diversity and well-being adviser Hayley Bennett on one team. International hockey player Joie Leigh, sports policy expert Florette Blackwood of Jamaica, and associate professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, Emma Sherry on the other side.

Prof Sherry said: “Maximising the contribution of sport to the SDGs means giving sport a more focussed and strategic target, providing opportunities for policy coherence, and leveraging a whole-of-government and whole-of-sport approach to the world’s wicked problems.”

Ms Blackwood added: “Sport development policies must be fully integrated into the development agenda. To succeed, we need to rethink and redefine our approach to sports-based programmes in more innovative, strategic and measurable ways.”

The Annual Commonwealth Debate will be held in conjunction with a technical meeting of experts and officials on 4-5 April, advancing a collaborative global initiative to improve how the contribution of sport on the SDGs is measured. This work delivers on two key global plans, the Kazan Action Plan and United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace.