Sport knows no boundaries: Across language, social and cultural barriers, educational, age and gender differences, sport brings people together and conveys Olympic values such as solidarity, fair play and friendship. In sport, people meet on an equal footing and develop a cooperative, partnership-based approach that forms the basis for peaceful and successful teamwork and cooperation.

Sport and exercise are also important prerequisites for healthy physical and mental development. In this context, sports education offers a wide range of opportunities for personal, social and societal development and playfully opens up paths to a self-determined life for children and youth, especially girls and women.

Wheelchair basketball in Senegal promoting sporting participation for people with disabilities ©DOSB

Personal development

In addition to motoric and mental development, sport also teaches so-called "Life Skills". These are key qualifications and everyday skills that help to overcome challenges in everyday life and later facilitate one's entry into the professional world. For example, children and young people learn to assume responsibility, to act fairly and cooperatively and to resolve conflicts peacefully. These skills strengthen self-confidence, encourage their ability to act and contribute to shaping their own identities. But sport not only socialises, it also educates.Training can be combined with educational offers such as homework tutoring, vocational training or health education on topics such as HIV/AIDS and healthy lifestyles. Sport thereby also includes those who are often excluded from other educational programmes. In particular, marginalised children and young people experience important impulses for their future through educational content and experiences of success in sport.

Children and young people celebrating the power of sport for social development in Jordan © DOSB

Social development 

Sports activities create unique opportunities for encounters and dialogue in a safe space. Enjoying sports together creates a special sense of belonging, which enables to overcome borders and barriers of all kinds - breaking down prejudices and strengthening social cohesion. Through its low-threshold participation opportunities, sport enables social participation for all and promotes peaceful, non-violent interaction with one another, regardless of origin or physical and mental abilities. In this way, integration and inclusion can succeed on an equal footing.

Critical Public Viewing of the 2018 World Cup in Cologne - DOSB and Engagement Global use sport as a platform to discuss issues of sustainable development ©Engagement Global

Societal development 

Through its reach into all societal spheres, sport plays an active role in shaping social development. While major sporting events in particular can serve as a valuable platform for socially relevant issues and as a catalyst for sustainable change processes, sport for development especially focuses on promoting involvement and commitment as a prerequisite for a participatory society. Sport education projects offer valuable opportunities to get involved in a civil society and to share views on community life. As such, sport contributes to the development of pluralistic communities and lively civil societies.


Sport2030 combines the power of sport with the SDGs ©Jackie Lauff
Sport2030 combines the power of sport with the SDGs ©Jackie Lauff

On the positive qualities of sport as a facilitator of development and peace there is consensus at international level. In recognition that sport and physical activity bring many individual and social benefits, the UNESCO established sport and physical activity as a fundamental right for all as early as 1978. In 2001, a United Nations (UN) Special Advisor on "Sport for Development and Peace" was appointed in order to include organised sport in peace consolidation and development cooperation matters. This underlined the growing recognition of sport by the UN, which led to the establishment of a direct partnership between the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2017. A particular focus of this partnership between the UN and the IOC is the use of "sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace" to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, the UN designated 6 April as the "International Day of Sport for Development and Peace" in 2013. Every year on this day, people all over the world draw attention to the many ways in which sport can contribute to achieving the goals set out in the "Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development". Here a selection:

©United Nations

SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Sport is of fundamental importance for physical and mental health.  Sport and exercise can help to cope with stressful situations and mental strain. In addition, sport can be an effective tool for preventive health education. Through sport, fears of being exposed to topics such as HIV/AIDS can be reduced and knowledge about them can be imparted. Regular exercise also reduces the likelihood of many health risks, such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and various types of cancer.

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Sports facilities and playing grounds are fields of experiences and adventure, where children and youth can meet, try out new things and develop themselves. They offer a diverse learning environment for co-determination and social responsibility. Sport creates space for evolvement and provides a platform to stand up for oneself and others. Anyone involved in sport as a player, coach, referee or youth representative strengthens their decision-making competence, their sense of responsibility and promotes their identity formation. Furthermore, group experiences can be gained in mutual contact and social skills such as empathy, teamwork and cooperation can be practiced. Due to sport's inclusive nature and low-threshold participation opportunities, social contacts and relationships are easily formed. The sports field as a place of learning also includes marginalised groups of people who feel less attracted or even excluded from other educational opportunities. In addition, sport and exercise sessions can be systematically combined with school or vocational training programmes. Thus, sport can promote both formal and informal education.

SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
All over the world, women and girls are confronted with cultural and structural barriers that can make it difficult for them to participate in society. Through various gender equality policy activities, sport counters this inequality and creates positive role models for girls and women at various levels. Sports-based development projects offer them the opportunity to strengthen their self-confidence, take on responsibility and become self-determined members of society.

[Translate to Englisch:] ©United Nations/

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
On the macroeconomic level, sport as a consumer good creates large numbers of jobs and has a positive influence on other economic sectors such as tourism, the hotel industry, transport and the media. According to a study by the European Commission, " approximately one in 47 euros and one in 37 employees in the EU is directly linked to sport" (source). On a personal level, sport also teaches teamwork, stamina and self-confidence - values that are important for a successful start in professional life. Sports-based development projects specifically combine sports activities with vocational training, thus contributing to the employability of young adults.

SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
In cities and residential areas, both designated sports facilities as well as green spaces and parks create attractive opportunities for sports activities. Thereby, especially sports facilities in public areas such as parks provide easy access for people interested in sports. This enriches the local offer of public activities and increases the quality of life. The opportunity to engage in joint exercise in a community brings people into contact with each other, strengthens social contacts and promotes the cohesion of residents. Beyond this, major sporting events in particular can be catalysts for infrastructural developments and the improvement of local mobility for the long-term benefit of the community.

SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
By producing one's own sports equipment, sport can create an awareness for sustainably produced goods. A lot of sports equipment such as obstacles or goals can be made either from simple materials like wood or by recycling materials like plastic waste. Even balls or frisbees can be produced by creatively using existing materials. Through the independent and resource-saving production of such equipment, which can be used immediately in the sports units, children and youth playfully acquire an understanding of sustainable production and consumption.

SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Experiencing nature promotes people's sensitivity for environmental and nature protection concerns. In order to ensure that these topics remain compatible with societal trends and maintain their political assertiveness, new thematic approaches, that are directly linked to the world in which young people live, are needed. In this sense, sport provides access to direct nature experiences and can contribute to anchoring issues such as climate change and environmental protection in the minds of the public through modernisation and promotional measures.

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Due to its universal rules, sport makes it easier to encounter and get to know each other. Sport promotes tolerance and respect and creates friendships across social boundaries. Prejudices and fears can be reduced by doing sports together. Thanks to its low-threshold participation opportunities, marginalised social groups can be reintegrated into social life through sport, spaces for rapprochement can be created and a feeling of togetherness can be promoted. In sport, people learn to overcome challenges cooperatively and to settle conflicts without violence. In this way, pedagogically guided sports programmes contribute to the development of pluralistic and peaceful societies.

SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development
As one of the largest civil-society actors, organised sport offers optimal conditions for international partnerships through its motivating, thrilling and inspiring power. All over the world, sport unites people through shared values, motivates young people to get involved and offers multisectoral platforms for implementing the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Sport is no panacea

Even if the potential of sport is extremely diverse, it is not a panacea. It must not be forgotten that sport is also a mirror of society. Thus, sport can also have an exclusionary effect if it is not initiated properly. It can emphasise gender roles and reinforce national or ethnic affiliations beyond a natural level. Fair play and unsporting behaviour often don’t lie far apart. Sport-based development projects must be aware of this potential ambivalence and consider appropriate preventive measures. Of course, it is also largely up to the trainers' technical and pedagogical skills to make profitable use of the developmental potential of sport in a context appropriate way.


In July 2016, Olympic and world champion in fencing Britta Heidemann was announced as ambassador "Sport for Development" of the BMZ and the DOSB. In this role, Heidemann promotes the topic of "Sport for Development" in public and engages in direct interaction with the children and youth in developing and emerging countries through project visits. For example, the ambassador used the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro as a platform, to raise attention to sport as a means for development. Britta Heidemann also accompanied the launch of the "Athletics for Development" project in Uganda and discussed the opportunities of sport for development with German Development Minister Gerd Müller at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development's (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, BMZ) Future Congress 2017. Besides Britta Heidemann, former national football players Nia Künzer and Gerald Asamoah are also ambassadors of "Sport for Development".


Based on the common conviction that sport contributes positively to personal, social and societal development worldwide, the DOSB has been working closely with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, BMZ) as its contracting authority and partner since 2012. This close cooperation was formalised in 2017 in the form of a partnership declaration between the BMZ and the DOSB. Olympic fencing champion Britta Heidemann functions as ambassador "Sport for Development" for the BMZ and the DOSB. In the area of implementation, the DOSB cooperates with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which runs development policy projects worldwide on behalf of the BMZ.

"Sport for Development" is a cross-sectional field of German Development Cooperation and is used, depending on local needs, to achieve specific goals in fields such as education, health, environmental protection, gender equality or integration. At comparatively low costs, a large number of people can benefit from socio-pedagogically accompanied sports activities. Thanks to its low-threshold participation opportunities, sport appeals in particular to marginalised children and youth, who might feel excluded from other programmes.

In their joint activities, the BMZ, GIZ and DOSB focus on sustainability from project initiation to project implementation and always adapt their projects to the situational and social conditions on site. Through close cooperation with its partners in the region and the training of local multipliers, the DOSB anchors new competencies in local structures over the long term, promotes local ownership and contributes to a lively civil society in the partner countries.

Opening up future prospects in Namibia

Under the slogan: "Education First - Basketball Second", the Basketball Artists School (BAS) teaches social and life skills. The afterschool programme in the Namibian township of Katutura looks after approximately 50 children and young people from difficult and broken backgrounds every school day. Values such as respect, fair play and discipline are taught here through basketball. But before going out on the pitch, the focus is on education by providing educational support such as homework supervision. In that way, BAS combines educational opportunities with sport to help children and young people to find their way to a self-determined life. An example of this combination of Education and Basketball is the successfully completed project "Free Throw - Basketball Artists against HIV/AIDS", which used basketball training to explain the dangers of the infectious disease. In addition, BAS runs an open sports programme ("Open Programme") and thus also offers meaningful leisure activities to those children who are not BAS students. Due to the numerous positive experiences, the BAS concept was extended geographically to the rural regions of Namibia's north. A central component of the BAS is the training of so-called junior coaches in the capital Windhoek and in the country's north. The young people themselves are trained as coaches, learning to take responsibility for the community, younger people and to act as multipliers for the values of sport. This leads to a sustainable anchoring of sports education expertise in the local community. 

Conflict prevention in Turkey

From December 2016, in cooperation with the GIZ and the Turkish Olympic Committee (TMOK), Turkish and Syrian multipliers have been trained in south-eastern Turkey near the border to Syria with the goal of establishing sustainable sports and exercise programmes in clubs, schools and community centres. Thereby, intercultural exchange, mutual respect and the appreciation of diversity between Syrian refugees and the local population are promoted. Sport is used to convey values such as respect, fair play and team spirit and to create incentives for education. Children and youth who are reached through sports education programmes can build up trusting relationships and friendships with their peers and experience a shared sense of achievement. The workshops mainly take place in the cities of Gaziantep, Sanliurfa and Kirikhan and involve a wide range of sports such as football, table tennis, basketball, athletics, karate and taekwondo. In 24 workshops, 500 sports for development multipliers were trained and more than 18,000 children and youths were reached with regular activities.

Promoting social cohesion in Jordan

In Jordan, social participation is particularly encouraged with a focus on psychosocial support. Through various sports, such as handball, basketball or Ultimate Frisbee, children and youth are offered a distraction from their often difficult everyday lives and access to meaningful activities is improved. Through the implementation of sports-pedagogical movement offers, Syrian and Jordanian teenagers come into contact with each other in a playful way, which creates the first interpersonal connections. Further, a large number of multipliers are trained in Jordan and, in cooperation with various professional associations, handbooks are developed for sports education in football, handball, basketball and ultimate frisbee. These manuals are available in English and Arabic and support the local instructors in imparting the "Sport for Development" approach. In this project, the DOSB works closely with the Jordanian Olympic Committee (JOC), the Jordanian sports federations as well as the BMZ and the GIZ.

Education through sport in Uganda

Together with 28 different local and international partners, the DOSB is implementing the "Athletics for Development" (A4D) approach in Uganda. The overriding goal is to create awareness of social and health issues through the basic movement forms of running, jumping and throwing as well as through sports pedagogical forms of play. In addition to the inclusion of people with disabilities and the promotion of rural youth, the project focuses in particular on strengthening social cohesion within the local communities. Uganda is home to more than 1.3 million refugees from neighbouring countries (Southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi). This confronts the country's population, which is affected by conflict and fragility, with social and economic challenges such as securing basic and health care or providing quality education. Especially in the severely affected north of Uganda, this can lead to conflicts between local and refugee communities. In addition, further educational content impart knowledge on the topic of sustainability, such as how to produce one's own sports materials from the available local resources. In implementing the project, the DOSB is working closely with the BMZ and GIZ as well as World Athletics and the Ugandan Olympic and Paralympic Committee (UOC/UPC).

Reconciliation through sport in Colombia

In Colombia, athletics coaches working in the border regions to Venezuela are trained in the S4D and especially the A4D approach. In the context of the reconciliation process, the project aims to reach children and youth in order to promote social cohesion and integration. The best-practice exchange between the A4D countries Colombia and Uganda contributes to the continuous improvement of the methodological approach.

Our S4D sports

AthleticsUltimate FrisbeeBasketballCapoeiraFootballHandball

as a team to success

With its international projects, the DOSB promotes the networking of ministries, civic actors and sport organisations. This enables an intensive interdisciplinary exchange of experience and mutual learning, so that the qualities of sport are optimally utilised in development cooperation. Especially the integration of German as well as international federations in sports-related development cooperation is the mission and goal of the DOSB.

The DOSB works closely together with the National Olympic Committees of the respective project countries in the area of sport for development (i.e. Jordan, Uganda, Turkey). At the level of the international sports federations, the DOSB cooperates with World Athletics, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), among others. 

On the German side, for instance, the German Handball Federation (DHB), the German Athletics Federation (DLV) and the German Frisbee Sport Federation DFV are involved in projects. Through these partnerships, the DOSB sensitises sports federations at national and international level to the opportunities of sport to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Furthermore, the DOSB cooperates with Engagement Global with regard to development education work in Germany.

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