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Sport and the SDGs

The international collective vision for a better world is outlined in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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“Otherwise known as the Global Goals, [the SDGs] are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.” UNDP

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development specifies that sport is an “important enabler of sustainable development” and the Kazan Action Plan identifies 10 specific SDGs[1] where sport can have the biggest impact in addressing the SDGs.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are ranked on a podium. In 1st place are SDGs 3, 4, 5 ,8 ,11 ,16 and 17. Sport has most impact on these goals. In 2nd place: 10, 12 and 13.  Finally, 3rd place: 1, 2 ,6 ,7, 9, 14, and 15. Sport has less relevance to these goals.

Although the SDGs may not be perfect, it is good to get into the habit of mapping your initiatives to these shared goals and your country’s national development priorities (which should also align to the SDGs). Doing so in a strategic, targeted way enables you to communicate your activities through a common language towards common goals, which in turn improves understanding and monitoring of the initiative in context of effective collective impact.

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Work backwards from the end goal

There are 169 Targets in the SDG framework. Key international sport policy frameworks (e.g. the Kazan Action Plan) have identified 36 of these targets as areas where sport can potentially make a valuable contribution. These 36 targets provide a valuable starting point to map sport based policies and programmes to the SDGs in a targeted way.

Starting with an SDG, then focusing more specifically on the particular targets associated with this goal to identify the key target(s) for your S&D initiative, not only ensures your activities align with and contribute towards international development objectives, but also enables articulation of your activities through an established common language. This is particularly helpful when looking for government or national-level support.

Key reports: Sport and the SDGs

There are a few reports that are commonly referenced and form the foundation of key assessment criteria for sport’s alignment with the SDGs:


[1] Measuring the Contribution of Sport – The Commonwealth, 2018 [SDGs 3,4,5,8,10,11,12,13,16]

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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