UNHCR launches partnership with Spanish sports giant, FC Barcelona
GENEVA, January 22 (UNHCR) - UNHCR and Spanish Primera Liga giants Barcelona on Tuesday signed a partnership agreement aimed at using sports to provide refugee children with life skills.
The three-year agreement, inked in Geneva by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Fútbol Club (FC) Barcelona President Joan Laporta, is expected to herald a long-term cooperation between the two famous and influential institutions.
"For us, this partnership is of huge importance," said a beaming Guterres. "FC Barcelona has the capacity to communicate to society such important values as tolerance, which is crucial for society's acceptance of refugees and other people in difficult and vulnerable situations," added the High Commissioner, who was presented with a "Barça" shirt with his name on the back.
"As a football club, our most important assets are our football stars. They are the ones who can give that touch of happiness to the most vulnerable people," said Laporta, whose football club includes global stars such as Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi.
"At the same time, our fans are also very proud that Barça is more than a club, precisely because of this kind of initiative in which we are participating," added the head of FC Barcelona, which also competes in sports such as basketball, ice and field hockey, cycling, athletics, rugby and figure skating.
The main objective of the new partnership is to raise public awareness of the protection needs of refugees and other uprooted people around the world and to promote the role of education and sport in the development and well being of refugees, particularly children.
As a first step, UNHCR and FC Barcelona will jointly identify and design a number of education and life skills projects through sport activities which will benefit refugees in Ecuador, Nepal and Rwanda.
The partnership will gain from UNHCR's mandate, expertise and field presence and from FC Barcelona's experience in assisting children in need in several countries through educational, cultural and solidarity activities. The partnership will assist UNHCR's ninemillion.org campaign to reach its goal of providing education, sport and technology to all refugee children by 2010. Guterres gave Laporta a ninemillion.org ball. These have become a common sight in refugee camps around the world.
UNHCR is one of the world's principal humanitarian agencies, with some 6,200 employees working out of 278 offices in more than 110 countries. Founded in 1951, the agency has provided assistance to well over 50 million people and earned two Nobel Peace Prizes. Today, it helps almost 33 million people around the globe.
FC Barcelona is one of the world's best known sports clubs, with more than 156,000 registered members. As part of its commitment to social issues, the club contributes a percentage of its income to development, educational, social and cultural initiatives through the FC Barcelona Foundation.
The partnership agreement with UNHCR follows other initiatives signed by FC Barcelona with UNICEF in September 2006 and with UNESCO in 2007.