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To benefit refugees through sports, UNHCR signs partnership with Olympic Movement

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To benefit refugees through sports, UNHCR signs partnership with Olympic Movement

1 June 2022

MADRID – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) today aiming to deepen its work with the Olympic Movement in providing opportunities for refugees and other forcibly displaced people to take part in sport at all levels.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi signed the MoU during a meeting of the ORF board in Madrid, at the headquarters of the Spanish Olympic Committee. President Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee signed on behalf of the ORF.

The signing comes days after the ORF and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team were awarded the prestigious 2022 Princess of Asturias Award for Sports.

UNHCR and the IOC have a long-standing partnership and collaborated in establishing the Olympic Refuge Foundation in 2017. The ORF is committed to supporting the protection, sporting and personal development of forcibly displaced people, beyond a focus on Olympic events, with the goal of reaching one million young people by 2024.

Organized, developmental sport activities can help to normalize young lives disrupted by conflict and forced displacement. They offer opportunities for better inclusion and protection to help young people heal, develop and grow. Sport can also empower refugee communities and help forge closer ties with the communities that host them.

UNHCR’s ‘Sport for Protection’ approach builds on this understanding, and the unique capacity of sport to actively and meaningfully engage young people.  ‘Sport for Protection’ programmes aim to achieve, at a minimum, positive outcomes in three areas: social inclusion, social cohesion and psychosocial well-being.

Since 2014, with the IOC and the ORF, UNHCR has implemented meaningful sport activities in Jordan, Ethiopia, Colombia, Rwanda, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kakuma in Kenya.

UNHCR also collaborated with the IOC to bring refugee athletes to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics as the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team and repeated this in Tokyo in 2021.  Since September 2021, the ORF has taken overall responsibility for the IOC Refugee Athlete programme and will manage the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

Today’s signing reflects UNHCR’s increased focus on the role that sport and sport organizations can play in refugee responses, and it is one in a growing number of partnerships with sports organizations working to achieve better outcomes for people forced to flee. Other partnerships include UEFA, Special Olympics and the International Judo Federation.


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