Social conflict

Playing Sports for Peace

September 23, 2011

by Nina Agrawal

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting this week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) held a panel discussion about “sports for development:” using sports as a catalyst for social development. Featuring 8-time All-star baseball pitcher Pedro Martínez, NBA defensive star Dikembe Motumbo, and speed-skating Olympian Johann Koss, the panel touched on the ways sports contribute to development. Among them were: facilitating social inclusion, building youth leadership skills, connecting youth to job training programs, and empowering women and girls.

One particularly interesting component of sports for development—especially in light of the discussions this week at the UN General Assembly— is the role sports can play in peace-building. One theme echoed among participants at Tuesday’s event was the universality of sports. Longtime ESPN reporter Jeremy Schapp said sports aren’t  just about elite athletes competing at the highest levels, but rather the millions of children “who play in playgrounds and ball fields everywhere [and share] a passion to play.” Johann Koss, CEO of Right to Play, a Canada-based sport-for-development organization, said his organization was founded on the principle that “all children have a fundamental right to play.” Donald Steinberg, deputy administrator of USAID, told the story of kids he met at a refugee camp in Ethiopia who so craved the experience of play that they made soccer balls out of rags and used what little energy they had to score goals.

The universal quality of sports lends them a unique power to bridge social, political, economic and cultural divides, and to foster peace between individuals and groups in conflict. Sports promote shared identity and humanization of the “other”; individuals and groups who might otherwise approach one another with a lack of trust, hostility and/or violence learn about what they have in common and build relationships as they work toward a shared goal.

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Tags: Youth, Social conflict, International conflict, Sports

Bagua's Indigenous Protest One Year Later

June 7, 2010

by Naomi Mapstone

A year ago this past weekend 34 people died near a section of road in Peru’s Amazon known as “Devil’s curve.” 

In many ways it was a typical Peruvian protest. The indigenous people who had congregated from all over the region to call for the right to be consulted over energy and mining projects on their land had blocked the road for several days.

Pressure built as essential supplies into the town of Bagua ground to a halt, until finally a Peruvian cabinet ordered police to disperse the protest.

It was at this point that Bagua departed from the normal pattern of protest in Peru and became the worst violent confrontation in Peru since the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru insurgencies of the 1980s and 1990s.

Twenty-two people died in the ensuing clash, and protesters at an Imacita pumping station took hostage and later killed 12 police officers. The violence spilled over onto the streets of Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande.

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Tags: Peru, Bagua, Social conflict