Sports as a Tool for Conflict Transformation and Prevention in Sri Lanka
Sports as a Tool For Conflict Transformation And Prevention In Sri Lanka
"AIDS is transmitted by kissing!" the coach calls out. The girls and boys on the football pitch dribble their balls left into the "wrong" field. "Unprotected intercourse transmits HIV!" Right! The children dribble to the right. They make few mistakes now, they know the answers by heart.
Today a German radio journalist has come to watch them practice in Kiev. The young players are well used to that; during the Euro Championship journalists from all over Europe came to see the "Fair Play" project the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is running in Ukraine at the behest of the German government. Even world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was there and kicked the ball around with the kids. The journalist asks two fourteen-year-old girls what they have learned so far. The children exchange slightly furtive looks: "We learned a lot about AIDS." "Such as?" "That the disease is not transmitted by mosquitoes and that you need to be careful when you get a piercing." They are too shy to tell him the rest of what they have learned.
AIDS is still a taboo topic in Ukraine. No one talks about the disease. Not in school, not at work and most certainly not at home. And that is the crux of the problem, according to GIZ Project Coordinator Martin Kade. Now he is using football's popularity to bring the issue "up out of the murky depths of shame". "We use football and the joy children experience playing sports as a vehicle. Young people playfully learn how to protect themselves and others from HIV/AIDS." Together with the Ukrainian Football Association, the project has taken a training concept developed by GIZ in South Africa and adapted it with many different activities for Ukrainian youths.
The project works closely with schools where "Fair Play" training is an integral part of physical education. In the beginning it took a lot of convincing, and there was a lot of resistance to overcome. But by now the project practically runs itself: the programme has already reached 30,000 children at more than 600 schools and aims to involve 40,000 overall.
AIDS is a serious challenge for Ukraine: the United Nations estimates that more than one percent of the country's sexually active population is infected with the virus – ten times more people than in Germany. And these numbers continue to rise every year. It affects young people in particular, who get infected through unprotected sex or by sharing needles when using drugs. Potentially though everyone is at risk. The project aims to reach a wider public through a broad informational campaign based on the German "Gib Aids keine Chance" (Don't give AIDS a chance) campaign.
Ukrainian football star Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who currently plays for FC Bayern Munich, has agreed to come on board as ambassador. On huge billboards and in an advertising spot he calls on people to take responsibility for their own health: "Football is my responsibility. Protecting yourself is yours." Singer Gaitana who represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 is also supporting the project with benefit concerts.
The idea of promoting young people through sport is increasingly the focus of German development cooperation efforts. In developing and emerging nations, many children and youths grow up in poverty. Drugs and violence become part of the daily lives of young people with no other options. Many slide into criminality. Sport can act as a sheet anchor.
German state development cooperation (DC) can look back on many years, almost 30 all told, of experience in the sports area. Since the very beginning, football has played a key role as a medium for social mobilisation, sensitisation and integration. The projects organised by the GIZ, particularly on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), run the gamut from "classical" sport promotion projects – such as sending football coaches abroad – through physical education approaches in schools and communities, to the organisation of large events.
The "sport for development" approach received further international recognition with the passing of Resolution 58/5 entitled 'Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace' by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in November 2003. Sport's contribution to reaching the Millennium Development Goals was a particular focus here. The resolution has resulted in increasing state attention and support for the use of sport in development processes at all levels of society.
German DC has also adopted this approach. When promoting social development through sport, programmes are designed to focus on the social, integrative and peacebuilding elements of sport. Additionally within the framework of international large sporting events, sport has the potential to provide impulses for political networking and economic development. Their "emotionalisation" means sporting events have a unique selling point that can be used to benefit areas of intersection (including image building, infrastructure).