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Sport Plays Role In Bringing Peace To West Africa

Top UN envoy highlights sport’s role in bringing peace in West, Central Africa

31 October 2008 – The United Nations envoy tasked with promoting sport for development and peace has wrapped up a week-long visit to West and Central Africa, where he underscored the role that sport can play in consolidating peace.

“Sport can help ease tensions, reconcile opponents and connect people and communities. It thus has the potential to empower, motivate and to inspire,” Wilfried Lemke, who serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, said at an event at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNOCI, in Sebroko, Côte d’Ivoire.

But he noted that “sport alone cannot prevent conflicts or build peace – yet it can contribute to broader and more comprehensive efforts.”

During his five-day stop in the West African nation, he held talks with Dagobert Banzio, Minister of Sports and Physical Education; Youssouf Bakayoko, Foreign Minister; and senior UNOCI representatives to discuss how sport can enhance lasting peace and social cohesion in Côte d’Ivoire, which is rebuilding after a brutal 14-year civil war.

Mr. Lemke met with numerous sports groups, including the National Olympic Committee and the Judo Training Club of Bouaké, even taking part in a 10 kilometre run in Koumassi.

He then travelled on to Cameroon, where he held talks with Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and delivered the opening address at the 2nd International Conference for the Young African Footballer in the capital Yaoundé.

“Youth are among the greatest beneficiaries of the positive effects of sport since values such as respect, cooperation, discipline and leadership can contribute to improving health and education and also to give youth a better chance to find a profession,” Mr. Lemke said.

“However, it is our duty to urge governments, football federations and clubs to fight against young footballers’ exploitation and to ensure respect of principles of human rights, in this case especially the rights of the child, is upheld.”

While in the country, he held talks with Augustin Edjoa, Minister of Sports and Physical Education; Adoum Garoua, Minister of Youth; and Joseph Dion Ngute, Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Lemke discussed the upcoming football World Cup in South Africa, noting that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked him to do all he can to ensure that the event, to be held in Africa for the first time, will be a success.

ENDS

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