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IOC President leads sports world in support of displaced people at Global Refugee Forum


13 December 2023 – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach today announced the Joint Sport Pledge on behalf of the Sport for Refugees Coalition at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, addressing heads of state, ambassadors, refugees and the wider humanitarian sector. The pledge commits USD 45 million to benefit 500,000 displaced people.

President Bach, who also chairs the IOC’s Olympic Refuge Foundation, presented the Joint Sport Pledge on behalf of more than 100 organisations, including over 40 National Olympic Committees and International Federations, as well as governments, refugee-led organisations, UN agencies, civil society organisations, private sector representatives and beyond.

Speaking at the event, the IOC President said: “Sport is about so much more than physical activity. Sport is empowerment. Sport is health. Sport is inclusion. Sport is respect. Sport is solidarity. Sport is belonging. Sport is peace.

“This is what brings our Coalition together: a belief in the power of sport as a force for good in the world. With far too many wars and conflicts displacing millions of people on a scale we have never seen before, this power of sport has never been more important. Sport is a low-cost, high-impact tool, especially for displaced young people, to find belonging; to empower them; to rebuild their lives and to shape their own future.”

He added: “The message of our pledge is clear: sport is supporting displaced people around the world. Above all else, this is a team effort. Everyone can and must play their part. It has never been more urgent to include sport in Refugee Response Frameworks, in budgets for National Action Plans and in your long-term development strategies. This is why, today, I am extending the hand of the Sport for Refugees Coalition to all of you. Let us join hands and work together for, and with refugees.”

President Bach’s appearance before the Forum was followed by him introducing the parallel high-level event “Breaking Barriers: Realising the Potential of Sport for Inclusion and Protection”, where the Paris 2024 Refugee Olympic Team Chef de Mission, Masomah Ali Zada, and Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Yusra Mardini both made contributions.

The event took a deeper dive into the work of the entities involved and was co-hosted by the Government of Colombia and the co-convenors of the Sport for Refugees Coalition: the Olympic Refuge Foundation, the Scort Foundation and UNHCR. The attending audience also heard from representatives of the governments of France, Zimbabwe and Colombia, as well as more than 20 other committing organisations.

The IOC President also took the opportunity to outline the IOC’s and Olympic Refuge Foundation’s specific commitments, which include investing USD 15 million to:

  • Support refugee athletes and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, which will for the first time be led by a refugee as its Chef de Mission at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
  • Strengthen positive media narratives around refugees through the global visibility of the Olympic Games, which reach an audience of billions.
  • Promote the mental health and psychosocial well-being of young refugees through sport.
  • Advocate broad support for refugees by building multistakeholder coalitions.

The high-level parallel event was closed by Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR, who said: “I would like to take a minute to remind us why in particular we’re here, which is the Global Refugee Forum, built on the principles of the Global Compact on Refugees – quite a revolutionary document approved in 2018 by the General Assembly. And what it does is to take two very simple ideas. One is that the responsibility for refugees and displaced people lies with all of us.

“But the other is that this responsibility is shared; it is shared by the whole of society. Those are the aspirations, and it’s quite clear that each of you fully understand that sport is one of the most powerful tools to ensure that level of inclusion.”

Pledging to ensure refugees thrive, through sport

The Multistakeholder Pledge on Sport for Inclusion and Protection of Refugees (“Sport Pledge”) outlines the role that sport can play in improving the lives of refugees, including through sports programming, policy change, skills development, and communication and advocacy efforts. The pledge was developed by a dedicated multistakeholder group working on and through sport, and guided by the co-convenors of the Sport for Refugees Coalition.

The commitments made as part of the pledge are as diverse as the pledging entities, and include financial, technical and material support, as well as policy commitments and those that create opportunities for resettlement and complementary pathways.

Through the pledge, entities commit to mobilising resources, expertise and networks to promote access to and opportunities through sport for, and with, displaced people and their host communities, contributing to more inclusive and cohesive societies.


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