Keeping an eye on development

Danial Norjidi

The importance of establishing a shared indicator framework for measuring sports-related development progress was recently highlighted during the third meeting of theOpen-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Model Indicators on Sport and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The meeting took place as a virtual forum on December 2 and 3, delivered by the Commonwealth Secretariat, with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the UN Department of Economic Social Affairs (UNDESA) as meeting hosts.

The OEWG is part of a broader international project to develop, test and validate a measurement framework and model indicators to support member countries, sporting bodies and other stakeholders, to evaluate and improve the contribution of sport, physical education and physical activity to prioritise SDG targets, according to a press release. The two-day virtual forum carried the theme ‘From Development to Implementation’ and reviewed progress to date on the development and implementation of the sport and SDG indicator framework.

The aim was to work towards developing an inclusive plan for scaling-up the indicators, to enhance measurement, future planning and investment around the framework.

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC reiterated the importance of sport as a contributor to sustainable development, calling upon the forum participants to work together in scaling implementation, and pledged to continue the Commonwealth’s “leadership and coordination role in this next stage of the project”.

The project primarily delivers on Action 2 of the Kazan Action Plan as well as Action Area 4 of the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace 2018-2020, which focuses on improving sport-related data, and is also aligned to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA).

The OEWGisa key forum to advance collaboration, and allow diverse stakeholders to contribute to the development and implementation of the framework indicators.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin in his welcoming remarks at the event shared that since 2017, UN DESA has housed the substantive portfolio on sport, development and peace within the UN system. “

It continues this work on many fronts, including on mainstreaming the various tracks of engagement on sport-related issues into relevant intergovernmental discussions,” said Liu.

He highlighted that the 2020 General Assembly resolution on “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development” has encouraged Member States and relevant entities to advance the consolidation of sport, in cross-cutting development and peace strategies, as well as to ensure the monitoring and evaluation of such strategies, policies and programmes.

“Member States have noted the lack of centralised global socioeconomic data and statistics on sport. They have thus encouraged the UN system to continue its work with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and other partners, to establish a shared indicator framework, in line with the Kazan Action Plan.”

“Indicators are vital to measuring sports-related development progress,” he affirmed.“Member States, UN system and civil society organisations have underlined the importance of data collection in this area, and of the need for relevant research, monitoring and evaluation.”

He also said, “It is important to note that more countries are including sport-related data in their Voluntary National Reviews to present at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development,” adding that “these are encouraging developments.”

The press release also stated that while the meeting was originally scheduled to be hosted at the UN Headquarters in New York by UNDESA, it was delivered as a virtual forum because of movement restrictions due to COVID-19.

Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO Gabriela Ramos noted the importance of the sport sector for the “healthy lifestyles, inclusive societies and resilience” that are required for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

Echoing the collective intent to leave no one behind, she also highlighted that the forum was being held on the International Day of People with Disabilities.

Over 200 participants officially registered for the online meeting, and according to an ongoing participant survey, over 93 percent of the participants reported being ‘satisfied’ or ‘highly satisfied’ with the meeting theme, agenda, and the quality and diversity of speakers.