Blog by Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat
This year’s Commonwealth Games (held from 28th July to 8th August 2022 in Birmingham, UK) marks a significant milestone.
It kicks of the Commonwealth Decade of Sport, during which important sporting events will be held across numerous Commonwealth countries, culminating in the hosting of the Summer Olympics in Brisbane, Australia, in 2032.
The next ten years, therefore, mark a distinct opportunity for human rights to be bolstered in sport across the Commonwealth, including through strengthening access and participation of marginalised groups.
In the wings of the Games, on the 27th July, the Commonwealth Secretariat will be convening the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers meeting (10CSMM), where key sport policies, frameworks and initiatives will be discussed and advanced. There will be a particular focus on human rights, fair access, and integrity of competition.
Promoting human rights in and through sport
The Commonwealth Consensus Statement on Promoting Human Rights in and through Sport, adopted in 2020, saw Commonwealth Heads of Governments recognise the “fundamental right to (practice) physical education, physical activity and sport without discrimination”, first proclaimed in Article 1 of the Revised International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport adopted at UNESCO’s 38th General Conference.
In line with the principle of universality, by facilitating participation of marginalised groups in sport, Commonwealth states can challenge stereotypes and ensure sport is an avenue in which they fulfil their obligation of respecting the right to non-discrimination.
In this way, sports can also contribute to empowering vulnerable groups and minorities, including on the basis of gender, race, sexual identity and orientation, and disability.
Participation by these groups in sport, can also have wider implications in strengthening their inclusion in other parts of society, and their enjoyment of wider civil, political, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights.
This was also recognized in the Consensus Statement, which also acknowledges the important contribution that sports and physical activity can make to improving wellbeing and healthy lifestyles, socio-economic development, and helping to build peaceful and just societies.
Enabler of sustainable development
Furthermore, in the UN 2030 Agenda on the Sustainable Development Goals, sport has also been recognized as an important enabler of sustainable development. Thus, it is critical that sport policies, frameworks, and events, integrate human rights at their core.
To ensure this is being upheld, states also need to ensure they have effective monitoring frameworks in place to guide and measure achievements towards meaningfully implementing a rights-based approach to sport.
Towards this end, the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat supports Commonwealth member states through the provision of technical assistance with integrating a rights-based approach to sports and human rights through sports policy, frameworks, and mega sport events, as per the commitments made in the Consensus Statement. This includes:
- Promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms expressed in human rights treaties that member states have ratified in laws, policies, plans, projects and other strategic documents relating to sport;
- Advocacy on access to sport, physical education and physical activity for all, including to achieve gender equality in sport, enable persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis; and commit to intensify the fight against structural and systemic racial discrimination; and
- Implement a policy of zero tolerance by sport for violence, harassment, abuse or discrimination, with particular attention to children and groups in a situation of vulnerability.
To further these commitments, at the 10CSMM, sports ministers and senior officials will meet to discuss pan-Commonwealth policy on sport and development for peace and share best practices towards achieving the commitments above.
This meeting will set important precedent to ensure that the legacy of the Commonwealth Decade of Sport contributes to strengthening human rights for all people across the Commonwealth.
If you would like to discuss the Commonwealth Secretariat's work on human rights, please contact the Head of the Human Rights Unit, Dr Shavana Haythornthwaite at [email protected].
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat