Organized sports programmes

Sports and games are popular activities among displaced children and youth, who enterprisingly fashion balls from old clothes or plastic bags when nothing else is available. Organized sports programmes go a step further. They work to develop life skills and address the specific protection risks that children and youth face, within a fun, safe and supportive environment.

Through partnerships with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FC Barcelona Foundation, The World Taekwondo Federation, the International Judo Federation, the Asian Football Confederation and many others, UNHCR is leveraging expertise, funding and quality programming to bring organized and protective sports activities to displaced children and youth globally.

UNHCR also supports refugee-led organizations such as AYAN, the African Youth Action Network, to promote peaceful co-existence with host communities through the medium of sport.

Skills development

Many of those leading sports projects in the camps, settlements and cities where young refugees, IDPs and stateless people live are from these communities.

UNHCR and its partners are working to formalize their skills. Along with Jesuit Worldwide Learning, SCORT, IOC and others, UNHCR is providing opportunities for displaced young people to train as “sports for protection” project facilitators and coaches and to gain qualifications for their futures.

These programmes cultivate the formal knowledge needed to develop projects, coach sports and address the distinct protection risks that displaced children and youth face.

Advocacy and awareness raising

Sport is a universal language and provides a vital platform to raise awareness of displacement and statelessness issues and help change perceptions and attitudes.

In displacement situations, UNHCR and its partners work through organized sports activities to promote the participation of adolescent girls and young women and bring different refugee, IDP and host communities together, both as participants and supporters, to share a common experience and break down barriers and stereotypes.

Globally, UNHCR partners with sports federations and associations to share positive and constructive messages on refugees. The #WithRefugees Coalition for example, demonstrates how partners such as ClimbAid, Paralympic Committee, Fare Network, German Cricket Federation, Irish Football Association and Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) can use their social media profiles to share positive messages with their combined 100 million Facebook followers.

Italy. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yusra Mardini trains at a swimming pool in Catania, Sicily

Yusra Mardini

The Syrian swimmer fled to safety and competed for the Refugee Olympic Team.

Luol Deng