The Rise of Global Sports NGOs Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Seymore, Aleksander
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Curriculum in Global Studies
  • In 778 BC, three kings of ancient Greece met to discuss the upcoming Olympic Games, and out of their meeting the tradition of the "Ekecheiria" or "Truce" was established. During the truce period, the athletes and their families—as well as ordinary pilgrims—could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries. It was a sacred message, pronounced throughout Greece—and one of the first recorded instances that sport was used for conflict resolution (Toohey, 2007 p.65). This was only the beginning of sport being used as a tool for change. The Ancient Mesoamerican game of Ōllamaliztli served as a way to defuse or resolve conflicts through a ballgame instead of a battle, and over time it would serve to resolve competition and conflict within the society (Taladoire, 2001, p.97-115). More recently, baseball was used as a way to relieve tension between the US and Japan after World War II, bringing the two nations together through a common passion (Price, 2010). The past 30 years have seen a tremendous rise in the use of sports as a means to resolve conflicts—especially by the United Nations. In October 1993, UN resolution 48/11 revived the long dead tradition of Olympic Truces (Lemke, 2012). In 2001, the UN introduced its Office on Sport for Development and Peace, and, in 2005, the UN declared the “International Year of Sport and Physical Education.” In October 2009 the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution recognizing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver as an opportunity to build “a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” (Lemke, 2012). In addition, an increasing number of countries (Cape Verde 2005, Mozambique 2011, Sierra Leone 2005, Tanzania 2011, Uganda 2010) have integrated sports into their national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, (frameworks guiding low-income countries to attain the UN’s millennium development goals) with the specific aim of “peace building.” Just recently, on April 6th, 2014, the world celebrated its first ever International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (Lemke, 2012). At the forefront of this endeavor are non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. NGOs are non-profit, voluntary citizens' groups that are task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, performing a variety of service and humanitarian functions. Sports NGOs perform a similar role, only using sports as their focal point for service and humanitarian interactions—and they currently seem to be booming in size and scope. According to Howard Brodwin, founder of North America’s largest sports NGO directory (, there has been a significant increase in the number of organizations on his site in recent years, to a total of 483. Though this cannot be directly equated to an increase in sports NGOs (as many were in existence prior to joining the directory), it does suggest an increase in the number of organizations large enough to request a directory listing. In addition, giving to sports NGOs has risen dramatically. Nike, the world’s largest shoe brand, gave $52.7 million in community investment in 2013, much of which went to the seven different sports NGOs they sponsor throughout the world (Nike CR Report, 2014). This is an increase over the $250,000 invested only seven years prior in 2006 (Nike CR Report, 2014). Sports NGOs are on the rise, and have been at the forefront of almost every major social issue, including conflict resolution (Brodwin, 2014). However, why has there been such a rise in sports NGOs? What do these NGOs hope to accomplish with sports, and what skills do they teach? How can these NGOs best utilize sports to accomplish their goals? More specifically, how are sports useful in post-conflict scenarios, and how can they best improve? In this thesis, I hope to determine the purpose of the sports NGO industry, the scope of what sports NGOs are attempting to accomplish, and the best practices that a sports NGO could use to accomplish its goals, primarily looking through the lens of sports and conflict resolution. My thesis will have a heavy focus on conflict resolution NGOs, but will also speak to the broader sports NGO landscape as well.
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: None
  • Weiler, Jonathan
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 75

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