Blog: How the Commonwealth is promoting and protecting human rights through access to sport

22 March 2022
People running morning laps in Tonga

A blog by Dr Lin Sambili, Project Manager, Sport for Development and Peace (SDP), Commonwealth Secretariat

Access to sport is incredibly important to the 2.5 billion citizens of the Commonwealth and a basic human right.

Finding ways to engage communities in sport is vital for governments looking to help people fulfil their potential with dignity and equality in a healthy environment.

Young people constitute more than 60% of the population of the Commonwealth, and the wellbeing and development of this 1.2 billion youth cohort is essential to the success of the Commonwealth and its 54 member states.

Given the diversity of the Commonwealth in terms of geography, language, financial resources and demographic makeup, the need to streamline sport to the achieve these wider non-sporting outcomes tied to human rights is becoming more and more apparent.

It’s an issue that has that is leading discussions within the sector – particularly at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development

This year’s annual Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development will focus on human rights and equality, with experts set to discuss what needs to be done to ensure these rights are protected and promoted.

At a policy level, the Commonwealth Consensus Statement on Promoting Human Rights in and through Sport - that was endorsed by sports Ministers’ - calls for inclusive and safe access to all through safeguarding.

Clause 15 in particular, Commonwealth Ministers of Sport, resolves to: Implement a policy of zero tolerance in sport for violence, harassment, abuse or discrimination, paying particular attention to children and groups in a situation of vulnerability.

Addressing human rights in sport

Recognising the challenges in this area, the Commonwealth Secretariat is now embarking on addressing human rights in sport through key partnerships, advocacy, legislation, and development.

Three ways we are promoting and protecting sports and human rights work is through:

  • Advancing the longstanding work of the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (CABOS) through widening the Working Group Memberships to more countries;
  • Progressing our partnership with sportandev that uses the SDP Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Toolkit course to promote a culture of learning and knowledge exchange;
  • Developing Model Legislation on the Position of Trust in partnership with the Commonwealth Rule of Law team, UNICEF UK, and DLA Piper that will be tabled at the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting (10CSMM) in Birmingham, UK.

The MOOC offers tailored capacity building on using sport for development on issues pertaining to human rights, youth employment, gender quality, and inclusion at the community level. The tool is available here.

The sixth annual Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development takes place on 31 March.

Find out more about the event and to register to attend



Media contact

  • Amy Coles  Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • E-mail