UNESCO's best kept secret

I was recently made aware of a UNESCO document known as their "International Charter for Physical Education and Sport". I'm quite sure not a lot of people even know of its existence (and most certainly not within our community). This document contains some of the most beautiful thoughts and ideas on physical education and sport that I have ever come across, and what is more interesting, a lot of them seems to be identical with what we believe is good, beautiful and right with our chosen discipline of parkour/freerunning/ADD.

The problem is that even though this document was created almost 40 years ago, "on the twenty-first day of November 1978", by some very intelligent and caring individuals from around the world, apparently not a lot of people have been paying it much attention...

The document was revised in '92 and has just undergone another revision that will be published in the near future. I don't really believe in fate, but the timing and concurrence of events within our international community made me want to share a few thoughts.

Among many interesting points the preamble of the charter states:

...Stressing accordingly that physical education and sport should seek to promote closer communion between peoples and between individuals, together with disinterested emulation, solidarity and fraternity, mutual respect and understanding, and full respect for the integrity and dignity of human beings...

...Considering that to integrate physical education and sport in the natural environment is to enrich them and to inspire respect of the earth’s resources and a concern to conserve them and use them for the greater good of humanity as a whole...

Taking into account the diversity of the forms of training and education existing in the world, but noting that, notwithstanding the differences between national sports structures, it is clearly evident that physical education and sport are not confined to physical well-being and health but also contribute to the full and well-balanced development of the human being...
— excerpts from the UNESCO charter

Okay, so that got my attention - albeit 36 years later! I think I can safely say that this is cutting to the essence of what we deal with every day, and what we find are some of the key messages that our chosen discipline seems to be such a perfect vessel for conveying.

I keep reading and after a while I stumble onto something that seems to strike at the very heart of what our international community has been going through for a while:

Even when it has spectacular features, competitive sport must always be in accordance with the Olympic ideal to serve the purpose of educational sport, of which it represents the crowning epitome. It must in no way be influenced by profit-seeking commercial interests.
— article 3.3 of the charter

Pretty spot on, if you ask me...

Of course we all have an interest in our discipline and everything connected to it, and for many of us this interest has naturally evolved into something that allows us to also get paid for our hard work, and thus keep doing it - and just to be absolutely clear: Getting paid for delivering a great service or product that you've poured you're heart and soul into refining, is perfectly fine with me! My own goal is to be able to keep doing this, sure, but only as long as I can keep my soul in it and keep my ethics, moral and values intact. This is an extremely difficult challenge in todays society and something that hardly any of my friends who went to business school seem capable of understanding. But it's not a challenge I personally intend to back down from, and no form of international politics or organizations will change what I do, and the way I work, on a daily basis.

I actually didn't come up with the title of this piece; Protecting Our Heritage and Fostering Creativity is a central UNESCO theme and, again, something that seems to echo the many voices of our community that are battling to be heard right now. For me this title very accurately sums up the one reason I am taking an active stance and putting in work. Nothing else. If politics and some kind of structure will help us all achieve this goal, I am all for it, in spite of all the noise. However, casting a solution from the same old mold is not going to work; why do we believe we'll succeed where pretty much everyone else have failed? We have gotten to where we are now because we do things differently and well - if we turn around now, what's going to set us apart...?  

So what am I trying to say? I'm not exactly sure, except that it feels like history has blessed us with a rare and fragile opportunity; an opportunity to make a change from within - not just for ourselves and what we do and love, but for physical education and sport in general. I urge everyone to pay attention. Listen. Communicate. Seek out the knowledge. Protect our heritage. Stay creative and don't copy - especially not the mistakes of others. Let's get to work and get it right!

I truly hope this opportunity will not be wasted...


About me, the author  Coincidentially, I'm born in 1978. I have a degree in physical education and architecture. I'm a co-director of Street Movement and I'm currently on the board of the Danish Institute for Sports Studies (Idan), an independent research centre set up by the Danish Ministry of Culture. This institute also includes Play the Game (PtG) and the Danish Institute for Non-Formal Education. PtG is an international conference and communication initiative aiming to strengthen the ethical foundation of sport and promote democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in sport. My involvement with this institute is the main reason I was made aware of the UNESCO charter and why I felt I had to write this little article.    For more about Idan click here. For more about Play the Game click here.

About me, the author 

Coincidentially, I'm born in 1978. I have a degree in physical education and architecture. I'm a co-director of Street Movement and I'm currently on the board of the Danish Institute for Sports Studies (Idan), an independent research centre set up by the Danish Ministry of Culture. This institute also includes Play the Game (PtG) and the Danish Institute for Non-Formal Education.

PtG is an international conference and communication initiative aiming to strengthen the ethical foundation of sport and promote democracy, transparency and freedom
of expression in sport. My involvement with this institute is the main reason I was made aware of the UNESCO charter and why I felt I had to write this little article. 

 

For more about Idan click here.

For more about Play the Game click here.

What is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization? To put in their own words: "known as the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations. At a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism. UNESCO exists to bring this creative intelligence to life; for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built."    For more info about UNESCO click here.  Read full UNESCO International Charter here.

What is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization?

To put in their own words: "known as the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations. At a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism. UNESCO exists to bring this creative intelligence to life; for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built." 

 

For more info about UNESCO click here

Read full UNESCO International Charter here.

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