Physical inactivity, mental health issues and social inequalities are three intersecting crises that have been aggravated by COVID-19. New UNESCO data revealed that 70% of physical education teachers reported that the mental and physical health of their students worsened during the pandemic.
Despite this and the numerous benefits of sport and physical activity in terms of physical and mental health, education, equality, inclusion and peacebuilding, 57% of countries invest less than 2% of their national education budgets in physical education.
To tackle this, UNESCO developed Fit for Life, a new sport-based initiative designed to activate smart investments in sport, increase grassroot participation and accelerate COVID-19 recovery.
Launched on 15 November 2021, during UNESCO’s General Conference, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant-Director General for Social and Human Sciences, set the scene by calling on partners to join the Fit for Life Coalition.
Sport is the glue which can bind us across regional, cultural, socio-economic and individual differences. We need to systematize our approaches if we are to increase our impacts and make the case for more and better investments in sport.
The event engaged high-level personalities including Roxana Maracineanu, Deputy Minister of Sport of France, Oleg Matystin, Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation and Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Key highlights included:
- New data released from UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education surveys, which will be published next year in the Global Status Report on Quality Physical Education;
- Panel discussions with former professional athletes including rugby player Pierre Rabadan, former ultra-distance swimmer of open waters Marcos Diaz and ice hockey player Angela Ruggiero, and partners from the Rafa Nadal Foundation, Futebol da Força and Yunus Sports Hub, moderated by sports journalist and TV host Anne-Laure Bonnet.
- Institutional support and contributions to Fit for Life from the Commonwealth, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance.
- Pledges made by partners to take action and engage in Fit for Life, including the Russian Federation who announced their commitment as a core partner and investor.
We are convinced that with the help of Fit for Life, we will be able to achieve our common goals, to raise the importance and value of physical activity to every person, and improve their quality of life, as well as to create all the necessary conditions for the healthy development of our countries.
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, closed the session by underlining the need for different UNESCO Programmes, such as the Education Programme, to join the Social and Human Sciences Programme and work closely together to develop this project.
I am proud that we are leveraging UNESCO’s unique transdisciplinary mandate to harness the joy of sport for well-being, inclusion, and resilience.
Following the official launch of the initiative, UNESCO calls on all interested parties, including Member States, the private sector, sports organizations and civil society to get in contact to learn how they can take part in Fit for Life, in view of the first phase of the project on advocacy and knowledge components which will initiate in 2022.
- More on the Fit for Life initiative
- More on Quality Physical Education
- More on Sport and anti-doping
For more information on the project and how to engage please contact: Nancy McLennan, firstname.lastname@example.org