Geneva, 15 September 2017 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today warmly welcomed the launch by the International Olympic Committee of the Olympic Refuge Foundation, with the aim of creating safe sport facilities and developing sport activities for refugee, displaced and vulnerable children.
“UNHCR is fully supportive of this excellent initiative, which will improve the life of thousands of displaced and disadvantaged children through sport,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who attended the official launch in Lima, Peru, and will become the Vice-Chairman of the Foundation.
“The creation of the Olympic Refuge Foundation comes as a natural next step in our twenty-year long collaboration with the International Olympic Committee,” he added.
“Sport for children, especially those displaced, is vital. It helps restore childhood and brings some semblance of normalcy in these young but already broken lives. For refugee children, organized sport activities means a safe space in which they can heal, grow and develop,” said the High Commissioner.
“Sport is also an agent for change for displaced and refugee children working to improve their social, physical and emotional well-being, regain their self-confidence and develop their skills,” he added.
Sport programmes designed by the Foundation will be based on the beneficiaries’ needs and their capacity to sustain them, with the full participation of all communities involved.
The Foundation will also seek to rally support from Governments, international organizations, members of the Olympic Movement, NGOs, private sector, individuals, with a particular emphasis on national partnerships.
Thanks to the cooperation between the International Olympic Committee and UNHCR, sport-focused projects in refugee and displacement situations have been initiated in more than 45 countries, including Jordan, Rwanda, Colombia and Ethiopia, benefitting tens of thousands of children and youth.
Out of the estimated 65.6 million refugees, displaced persons and other vulnerable groups around the world today, 51 per cent are children. Most of them have experienced some form of violence and trauma. Regular and structured sport activities in a safe environment are essential in proving protection to these children and helping them rebuild their lives.