Jamaica has been having over 1200 persons murdered every year since 2005. The efforts of several community-based and non-governmental organisations in empowering, educating, and developing the human social capital of various communities show that violence can be controlled.
Foremost among the activities that help to control and prevent violence is sports. When South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and President Nelson Mandela wearing the captain’s jersey lifted the trophy for the national team, something happened in segregated South Africa. It didn’t solve their problems, but it sent a strong signal of reconciliation and a common future to the people of a country that had been divided for generations and completely segregated since the 1950s. (Kvalsund, P., Sport as a tool for peace-building and reconciliation. December 5, 2005. 2nd Magglingen Conference Sports and Development).
In our own Jamaica, well do we remember the many instances of reconciliation that resulted from Jamaica’s qualifying for the World Cup in 1997, even if they did not last. And at the height of Jamaica’s successes at the recent Beijing Olympiad, the country experienced for the first time two days without a single murder.
Recognising the power of sports, the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), one of the most active members of the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), has been successful in stemming the tide of violence in several of these warring communities, using football, one of the most popular games in the world.
At the end of the civil war in Rwanda, where close to a million people were killed in 100 days, when the Tutsi and Hutu people were searching for answers, “football for peace” became a tool for reconciliation, as Tutsis and Hutus played together. (Kvalsund, P., Sport as a tool for peace-building and reconciliation. December 5, 2005. 2nd Magglingen Conference Sports and Development)
According to a report by the UN Inter-Agency Taskforce on Sports for Development and Peace “Sport provides a forum to learn skills such as discipline, confidence and leadership and it teaches core principles of tolerance, cooperation and respect. Sport teaches the value of effort and how to manage victory as well as defeat. It can cut across barriers that divide societies, making it a powerful tool to support conflict prevention and peace-building efforts, both on the global level and within communities. When applied effectively sport programmes promote social integration and foster tolerance, helping to reduce tension and generate dialogue.” (Sports as a tool for Development and Peace: Towards Achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, UN Inter-Agency Taskforce on Sports for Development and Peace)
The report also highlighted that sport “is vital to the holistic development of young people, fostering their physical and emotional health and building valuable social connections. It offers opportunity for play and self-expression, beneficial especially for those young people with few other opportunities in their lives. Sport also provides healthy alternatives to harmful actions, such as drug abuse and involvement in crime.” (Sports as a tool for Development and Peace: Towards Achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, UN Inter-Agency Taskforce on Sports for Development and Peace)
The VPA recommends that community and youth-led organisations host community football matches on September 21 to celebrate cooperation, unity and the power of football to bring people together. We also encourage NGOs and other entities to incorporate sporting programmes such as football as a useful tool for the promotion of development and peace. The VPA and its partners urge the Government and other funding agencies to help in strengthening sports for development and peace programmes by committing the necessary resources needed.