Blog: Using Sport to promote reform on physical, mental health and climate change

23 March 2023
People running morning laps in Tonga

This year is a particularly important year for the Commonwealth, following the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, where Heads of Government declared 2023 to be the Year of Youth and Year of Peace for the Commonwealth.

By Dr Lin Sambili-Gicheha, Project Manager, Sport for Development and Peace

The Commonwealth values young people and sees them as a major asset with a proven capability to advocate for change, and cultivate peace and prosperous societies.

Young people constitute more than 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.5 billion people. The wellbeing and development of this youth cohort in all spheres of life is essential to the success of the Commonwealth and its 56 member states.

Shared heritage

Sport is an important shared heritage. It has a unique convening power that, when well-utilised, allows individuals and communities alike to fulfil their potential with dignity and equality in a healthy environment.

The unparalleled global reach of sport is a powerful platform that can be used to address many global challenges that we face today and, in particular, it can be a useful tool to strengthen health and other societal systems which are struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

The pandemic reversed much of the progress made in sport and other related sectors, creating a global crisis for physical and mental health that has been particularly felt by young people and other marginalised groups.

Given the rich tapestry of the Commonwealth in terms of geography, language, and culture, as well as the intricate lines of trade and resources affected by the pandemic, there is a strong need to use sport to help create healthier societies, and a healthier planet.

Sustainable development

This year’s annual Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development will focus on how a 'compassionate sports sector should enable the charge for a healthy mind, body and planet', with experts set to discuss what needs to be done to ensure sport can show leadership and balance in future-proofing the wellbeing of people and planet.  

At a policy level, the Ministers Statement adopted at the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting acknowledged the important interplay between sport and several social outcome areas including health and wellbeing, and effective interventions on the prevention of diseases. The Ministers endorsed the need for a more inter-sectoral approach to fully utilising the power of sport to help countries deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

Globally, the recent publication of the report Sport for Mental Health at the WISH Conference in Doha 2022 by the University of Edinburgh, advocates for the linkages between sport, climate change and mental health, which is in line with the UN ISDP 2023 proposed theme of 'Scoring for People and the Planet’.

Recognising the challenges in this area, the Commonwealth Secretariat, within the frame of the Year of Youth and advancing our work on Sport and the SDGs Indicators Framework, is now embarking on addressing climate change in sport through key partnerships, advocacy, legislation, and development to support global efforts to combat climate change.

Mind, body and planet

We are committed to advancing a compassionate sports sector towards a healthy mind, body and planet, through:

  • Advancing the longstanding work of the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (CABOS) through creating a specific Working Group dedicated to inter-sectoral approaches and partnerships;
  • Progressing our partnership with sport and development and the Australian Government, and leveraging the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Toolkit to promote a culture of learning and knowledge exchange on a range of subjects include metal health, physical health and climate change;
  • Prioritising the sport and climate resilience needs of our Small Island Developing States (SIDs) as 33 of the world’s 42 Small States are Commonwealth members; and
  • Promoting the work of our academic and policy level partners invested in the creation of a compassionate sporting sector and how this translates to a much healthier and inclusive world.

The 7th Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development takes place in person and online on 4April 2023 in Marlborough House, London.

Learn more and register to attend


Media contact

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