Doha, 17 March 2013. A high-level meeting to address the issue of sport protection in the Middle-East and North-Africa took place on 17 March 2013 in Doha. The meeting was jointly organised by UNICRI and the ICSS, the not-for-profit organisation specialising in sport safety, security and integrity. UNICRI is the United Nations Institute implementing a worldwide programme on Major Events Security launched in 2002 and backed by the UN ECOSOC Resolution 2006/28.
This programme aims to provide technical assistance and advisory services to policy-makers and practitioners planning major events, with a specific focus on the dissemination of best practices and the development of coordination mechanisms and standards.
The meeting was hosted and opened by H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Minister of State for Interior Affairs, and was attended by high-level representatives of the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the European Commission, the Organization of American States, and several governmental authorities from countries around the world.
In his opening speech, H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani invited the ICSS and UNICRI, with the involvement of the League of Arab States, to stimulate the creation of a regional platform to protect major sporting events and sport competitions at large in the Middle-East and North Africa. “While the ultimate responsibility for security belongs to the host country”, the Minister said, “we should all work together to assist each other for the protection of the common good: sport.”
Mr. Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, United Nations, explained why all countries should be committed to protecting sport: “The United Nations is well aware of the role that sport can play to promote peace and development. Through sporting activities we can teach positive social values that can benefit local communities as a whole. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that we address sport from a safety and security standpoint, to ensure participation irrespective of age, gender, race, religion and ability. Furthermore, for sport to continue to be considered as a positive learning experience and teach fair play values, it is important that all stakeholders work together to combat corruption and illegal activities targeting sport in order to uphold its integrity.”
Speaking about the meeting, Mohammed Hanzab, President of the ICSS, added: “We are very proud that our initiative with UNICRI has received such attention within the international community. Countries in the region should lead the process; they possess all the necessary human resources and skills to develop their sport systems and infrastructures in an environment of safety, security and integrity. We are available to support such a process by developing the necessary mechanisms and tools to help them work together and to mobilise additional support from different sectors.”
The meeting underlined the need to bring to the attention of all Ministers of the Interior around the region the issue of sport protection in order to address it in a more coordinated and comprehensive way by developing a common platform. This platform will aim to facilitate different forms of mutual cooperation and enhance synergies with other key sectors, such as the sport movements and the international development agencies.
The meeting was attended by high-level international representatives including:
Jonathan Lucas, UNICRI Director said: “We are witnessing incredibly rapid development as well as an increase of expertise in the region with regard to the security of major sporting events. The Pan-Arab Games, the African Cup of Nations, the Gulf Cup of Nations and the 2022 FIFA World Cup are clear examples that the Middle-East and North-Africa are considering sport as an opportunity for socio-economic development.
UNICRI operates within the framework of the unique mandate to provide assistance to countries preparing for the security of major events. We are keen to make our expertise available and work in cooperation with the ICSS for the protection of sport competitions in the MENA Region. We are ready to share information on the models we have successfully implemented in the Americas and Europe, in cooperation with the Organization of American States and the European Commission respectively. However, we believe a model can only be effective once it is adapted and expanded with the concerned parties. That is why the future of sport in the MENA region is first of all in its own hands.”