ENGSO Youth at the Seminar on Sport Diplomacy
On December 6th, 2017, a team of ENGSO Youth led by vice-chair Nevena Vukašinović represented the voice of youth at the second seminar on Sport Diplomacy, hosted by the European Commission Directorate- General for Education Youth, Sport and Culture. The first Sport Diplomacy seminar in 2016 followed the release of a critical report delivered by the High Level Group on Sport Diplomacy, which focused on three areas of sport diplomacy: EU external relations, promotion of EU values in the context of major sport events and advocacy and the development of an organizational culture of sport diplomacy. This year’s seminar precedes the upcoming release of the follow up report to the recommendations presented by the High Level Group in the aforementioned areas of sport diplomacy. Yves LE Lostecque, head of the sport unit of the Directorate General for Education and Council of the European Commission, opened up the seminar with a clear statement that the EU and its various institutions are still not where they need to be in using sport as a tool for public diplomacy and that in order to move forward, it is critical to check in on the progress being made, gather good practices, discuss effective projects, collect innovative ideas and reflect on future policies and new programs. Many of these objectives were addressed throughout the course of the day’s schedule, which consisted of a mix of panel discussions, commission updates, workshops and presentation of good practices.
After Tarvi Pürn, Undersecretary of Sport of Estonia, reflected on the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union and its efforts to promote physical activity through various institutions, Niels Nygaard, Vice- President of the European Olympic Committees, reminded the audience of the importance of sport diplomacy, not only in relation to the upcoming winter Olympics which will ‘take place only 80 km from the border of North Korea’ but also in the European context, where for example, when looking at the European Olympic Committee, sport diplomacy (and its different applications) could be used to bring the 22 non EU members and EU members together in be able to more effectively work together to solve differences within Europe. Bogdan Wenta, member of the European Parliament emphasized the importance of the EU using sport as a tool for integration and inclusion, particularly when working with refugee populations, however, also cautioned against sport becoming too much a part of a political agenda, noting the importance of maintaining a barrier when combining sport with political goals.
Wenta’s emphasis on creating a barrier fed into an overall underlying theme at the seminar on the importance of not only a clearer conceptualization of sport diplomacy but even a overall agreement of a conceptual framework. When speaking on the various practices and projects revolving around sport diplomacy, the audience heard of various ways in which sport diplomacy could be used as a tool for a social objective, such as inclusion, integration, conflict resolution, gender equality or better governance. Importantly, it was noted that within such a discussion of its implementation as a tool, it is critical to acknowledge its implications, for example: who is using sport as a tool, for which types of social objectives, in what types of contexts and at which level, grassroots, national or international. The panel on best practices in the field, of which Nevena was part of, not only gave practical real life examples of sport diplomacy, but also expanded on the actors of sport diplomacy who are present at various levels, from the grassroots, to the national and international.
Nevena’s presentation and focus of the European Youth Sport Forum and its resulting Pink Paper demonstrated what youth from all over Europe are capable of doing when able to come together to share their ideas, energy and resources. The recommendations from the Pink Paper were well received and ENGSO Youth was used as a leading example throughout the seminar.
The European Commission update marked a critical point in the seminar as it gave the audience a clearer picture of what has been done at the EU level in relation to the recommendations of the High Level Report from 2016 but also in regards to the available funding instruments, priorities and themes within the field of sport diplomacy. The people to people Erasmus programs were highlighted as good practices and areas where sport diplomacy is and can be further explored. In the very descriptive and thorough presentation by Claire Morel, head of International Cooperation Unit, DG Education and Culture of the European Commission, it became apparent that although the Commission is able to support programs which do use sport as a tool, it has only been indirectly through funding towards education or youth centered programs. She pointed out that even though there is ‘no specific funding for sport based programs from external funding instruments, this could change.’
For those in attendance, similar to ENGSO Youth, who already hold sport diplomacy as a priority in their work with youth, a stronger level of support would allow for greater participation and contributions of the youth actors who are already part of the people to people sport based exchanges that center not only on sharing experiences but also ideas and values. These youth projects, such as the Olympic Legacy project funded by Erasmus + and which include youth based programs from the UK, Brazil and Hungary, offer a platform for achieving education objectives through sport in addition to giving real practical meaning to legacy plans surrounding international sports events. When these types of projects, which work for and with youth, are further supported and designed to be even more inclusive and international, then sport diplomacy can be an active tool for various social outcomes.
The ENGSO youth team composed of: Nevena Vukašinović, Bence Garamvölgyi, Gerard Masdeu Yélamos, Marisa Schlenker, Laura-Maria Tiidla, Simon Plasschaert, Floriane Ponchet