On December 6, the High Level Group on Sport Diplomacy of the European Commission presented its final report during a public event in Brussels. The Group was created by commissioner Tibor Navracsics in October 2015, with the goal of exploring the potential of sport diplomacy in the framework of the European Union. The High Level Group reunited 15 personalities from the world of sport, presided by the former President of the Republic of Hungary and Olympic Champion in fencing, Pal Schmitt. After different meetings that saw the participation of several external speakers from the sport world and other international relations experts, the Group produced a report that was presented to commissioner Navracsics in June. The report recognised sport as an “influential instrument for promoting peace, understanding and intercultural dialogue, as it disregards both geographical borders and social classes.” As a result, 15 recommendations were produced, concerning the EU external relations, the promotions of sport values in the context of major sport events and advocacy, and the development of an organisational culture of sport diplomacy within the EU.
In the framework of the presentation of the report to the public, different stakeholders were invited as speakers to present their views on the potential of sport in diplomacy and international relations. The ISF President, Mr. Laurent Petrynka, was among these speakers, following the recent award of the prize for the “Best Diplomatic Action” of the year during the 2016 Peace & Sport International Forum, held in Montecarlo (Monaco) on November 23-25. As Mr. Petrynka explained, the Peace & Sport prize gave a recognition to the constant engagement of the International School Sport Federation in “sport for peace and development” actions: it also confirmed the ISF as a prominent actor on the international sport stage.
In fact, the diplomatic contribution of the ISF does not simply consist in una tantum actions or projects: these actions only represent the iceberg top of a constant engagement in sustainable sport events, education-through-sport initiatives and youth empowerment. In order to do so, the ISF is active in the strengthening of its relationship with all the relevant sport and education stakeholders. This implies, first of all, an enhanced cooperation with the IOC and an effort for mutual recognition and cooperation with all the International Sport Federations: for instance, the recent signature of a memorandum of understanding with the International Orienteering Federation has to be read under this light. Secondly, the ISF is active in the strengthening of its cooperation with national public institutions such as ministries of youth, sport and education: this does not only happen for those countries that already are among the ISF members, but also with all the other countries, with the aim of fostering the development or the creation of school sport systems where they do not exist.
In his speech in Brussels, the ISF President also highlighted the involvement of the Federation in the Erasmus+ Programme with the the recently funded V2S Programme, aiming for the training of young volunteers in school sport organisations: “the role of our volunteers, coming from all over the world, is a key one for the success of our events”, stated Mr Petrynka; “young volunteers are the proof that sport does not only unite through competition: sport represents a peaceful community, in which every single participant has the possibility to make a difference, working for a common goal in a spirit of mutual understanding and togetherness.”
In addition, Mr. Petrynka presented to the audience the newly born ISF Youth Council: the Council will represent another powerful diplomatic tool through which youth will be empowered and will have the possibility to make its voice heard within an international sport institution. The ISF Youth Council will allow a better dialogue between the organisation and its target group: it will be the linking keyring between school sport athletes and volunteers and the ISF board. “We could affirm that youth empowerment is our guarantee against backwardness, which is often one of the main causes of disagreement between different generation: youth participation is one of the elements that make sport a powerful tool for dialogue and diplomacy.”