President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, H.E. Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani, has attended the inaugural Board meeting of the Olympic Refuge Foundation following its official launch in September at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Lima, which also saw the Qatar Olympic Committee confirmed as a founding donating partner.
Playing sport in a safe environment is not a right granted to everyone around the world, especially for the 65 million or so people who have been forced to leave their homes by war, famine and other natural disasters, and who are now living in refugee camps.
Working in cooperation with the UNHCR, the Foundation, which is Chaired by IOC President Thomas Bach, will support projects across the world, to create safe, basic and accessible sports facilities and develop sporting activities for vulnerable people. Projects, which will use sport as a pathway to social, physical and emotional wellbeing, will take a community-based approach.
During the Foundation’s first-ever Board meeting, the operational framework and scope of activities were approved, allowing the Foundation to go forward with the creation of the first safe spaces. Starting in early 2018, the Foundation, in close collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and with the relevant international partners and local authorities on the ground, will start the implementation of programmes and allocating grants through the generous donations of Olympic Movement partners, governmental institutions and private donors.
The Olympic Refuge Foundation is providing a unique opportunity to increase the understanding of sport as a positive factor for protecting and supporting vulnerable people. Based on knowledge and evidence, the Olympic Refuge Foundation will create tools, policies and resources that will contribute to deliver effective programmes. It will also leverage the Olympic Movement’s considerable network in order to advocate for the adoption of policies related to the potential of sport as an agent for change.
The Members of the Foundation Board were formally introduced during the meeting and represent a group of individuals who share the belief in the power of sport to make the world a better place and who have concretely demonstrated it through their interest and experience. In addition to H.E. Sheikh Joaan, they include:
· Mr Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner of UNHCR;
· Mr Zaiqing Yu, IOC Vice President;
· Dr Chungwon Choue, President of World Taekwondo and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Federation;
· Mr Yiech Pur Biel, member of the first Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
During the meeting, IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge was appointed as Honorary Member of the Foundation. The former Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Youth Refugees and Sport has advocated tirelessly around the world the benefits that sport can bring to young refugees and supported the direct implementation of sports programmes in Jordan, Ethiopia, Colombia and Rwanda.
The creation of the Foundation is a major initiative which stems from the strong and longstanding engagement of the IOC in social development through sport. This engagement has materialized, in particular, through the partnership between the IOC and the UNHCR, which dates back 1994. Through this cooperation, sport programmes have been implemented in various camps and refugee communities around the world, addressing the needs for basic sport equipment, and the rehabilitation of sport facilities, in close to 50 countries.
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