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group of women wearing hijab with footballs in front of them training to be sport development coaches
Using sport to promote peace and development for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Darfur.

Ethical considerations

Think about the issue you want to address. What are the ethical considerations you need to make? Are there other actors already addressing this issue? If so, what can you learn from them?

Sport is a useful tool but not an end in itself. It can also be the case that sport can act as an incentive to initiate the primary goal, as it may be difficult or taboo to approach the main topic directly, such as socialising between different ethnic groups to reduce conflict (PlayOnSide).

However, it’s not quite that straightforward. Sport isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to all development challenges and goals. Reflecting back on your situation analysis, it may be that sport isn’t a suitable or straightforward option.

Take the issue of ‘period poverty’ - however well-meaning your initiative to engage women in a specific community, may be a lack of adequate sanitary access will have an impact in them feeling comfortable with engaging in sport. If your initiative includes sanitary support or education, such as Magic Bus, this might mitigate uptake risk, but may not be the primary goal of the programme.

Safety of participants should always be treated as paramount. A well-meaning initiative, especially one that upholds values that differ to those of the identified community, may have unintended consequences. Sport used to empower participants to communicate an abusive or dangerous situation they may face, such as domestic abuse or forced marriages, may leave the individual ostracised or in a more vulnerable position if ramifications are not properly considered.

“Initially, I hesitated to play with girls, thinking of how people would react since I was told that girls and boys should play separately. Later, I realised the importance of interaction between genders. Now, I encourage the girls in my community to participate in sports actively.” Mohit Chhabra, a youth leader from Martha Farrell Foundation

Ethical dimensions are crucial. Sport may be your tool, but is it right for the job?

What are your experiences of ethical considerations of sport as a tool for change? Were there any changes you had to make to an initiative and why?

Remember, this is a public forum, so talk generally if sharing specific details is not appropriate.


Considering the impact, legacy, and exit strategy of your programme or policy, not just the desired end goal, needs to be part of your wider implementation plan and discussion with partners. Your initiative will not last forever, so you need to plan for the end as well as implementation.

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This article is from the free online course:

Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes

The International Platform on Sport and Development