In the run up to the 2020 Olympics, Fight for Peace Chief Executive Officer, Jenny Oklikah, virtually attended the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council to discuss the ways in which sport, and the Olympic ideal, are invaluable in promoting human rights for young people.

Jenny was joined by an inspiring panel from all over the world, including the first official female long-distance runner to take part in the Boston marathon, Kathrine Switzer. The panel also welcomed sailing Olympic gold and bronze medallist, and a great contributor to the MeToo movement in Greece, Sofia Bekatorou, and Elizaveta Kuntsmann, member of the Paralympic volleyball team. Each of them have used sport as a way to overcome some of life’s challenges.

Fight for Peace’s history with the Olympics didn’t start here, we’ve had Academy visits from several Olympic champions over the years, including boxers Nicola Adams and Anthony Joshua – with Nicola becoming Fight for Peace’s Ambassador in 2015. 

Our young people have also carried the Olympic torch at two Games – in London 2012 and Rio 2016 – and at the latter’s closing ceremony, another Fight for Peace member, Paulo Ricardo was awarded the Olympic Cup from IOC President. These are proud moments in Fight for Peace’s history.

We crossed paths with the IOC President again at this latest event as he introduced the panel discussion along with CEO of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, Toshiro Muto, and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, who described the Olympic ideal as – “…anchored in human rights: [embodying] fairness, non-discrimination, respect and equal opportunities for all.” 

This ideal is closely aligned with our values and approach at Fight for Peace, so it was fitting for Jenny to have the opportunity to represent us on this year’s panel.  

“We welcome and support the positioning of sport within a human rights context – in bringing attention to issues such as sexual violence, racism and poverty – and in giving voice, influence and positions of leadership to those with lived experience of those issues,” explained Jenny. 

She went on to describe how the Fight for Peace Five Pillar model integrates support and access to opportunities in different areas – boxing and martial arts, education, employability, youth leadership – and mentoring to enable young people to thrive. 

“Investment in sports and personal development programmes – particularly in lower economic communities – will help promote change, and encourage young people realise their full potential,” said Jenny. 

Discussion in the session also reflected the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic – a chance for Jenny to highlight the need for us, our partners, our Alliance, and Collectives to continue working together in supporting communities most affected at this crucial moment.

“We have seen how boxing and martial arts organisations in the UK, Rio, Jamaica, and across our Alliance – based in some of the lowest economic communities – have been at the forefront of providing basic needs at this time of crisis,” Jenny explained.

“In the aftermath of COVID-19, the world faces significantly increased challenges relating to mental and physical health, access to food and basic needs, and unemployment. This is the time for us to build on the momentum of the Olympics Games, and to work together.”

Sport and the inspiration that the Olympic Games generates are extremely powerful drivers for promoting human rights, personal growth and peace. It was an honour for us to be represented at this prestigious session by our CEO, and we look forward to the Tokyo Olympics this summer, and the stories of achievement and resilience that sporting events like this always bring.

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