UNHCR and the IOC reaffirm cooperation; discuss projects
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, June 13 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday reaffirmed their long-standing cooperation and discussed current and future joint projects aimed at helping refugees through sports.
"Sport has a high social and educational value. In refugee camps, our aim is that sport adds value to the excellent work carried out by UNHCR," IOC President Jacques Rogge said during a meeting at his Lausanne headquarters with High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
Rogge pledged to work with UNHCR on programmes designed to empower women and girls in refugee camps through sport-based activities. Preventive education on HIV/AIDS will also be undertaken. The two sides also agreed to boost their cooperation with the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa.
In a further sign of cooperation, the two organizations will on July 6 in Guatemala City launch the second edition of their "Giving is Winning" campaign to coincide with next year's Beijing Olympic Games. This will collect sports and casual clothing for donation to people - especially youth - in camps around the world.
On the occasion of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the IOC gathered more than 27,000 items of sports clothing from athletes and sports officials and distributed them to refugees, internally displaced persons and locals in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Azerbaijan and Kosovo.
At Wednesday's meeting, Guterres emphasized the importance of sport as a tool to bring together multicultural and multi-religious communities and praised the role sport plays in the promotion of tolerance.
"Many young refugees spend years languishing in bleak camps around the world. For them, the gift of sportswear associated with famous athletes from across the Olympic spectrum is a tremendous morale booster and a sign that the outside world still does care," he said.
Since 1994, IOC has worked with UNHCR in refugee camps and resettlement areas around the world. Projects include those that offer structured sport and recreational activities for refugee children whose social bearings have been destroyed by war and conflict.