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Statement by Italy’s Permanent Representative at General Assembly High-level Debate on “Crime Prevention and Sustainable Development through Sports”


Thank you, Mr President.

Italy has long recognized the invaluable role of sports as a pivotal instrument in fostering peace, sustainable development, inclusion, tolerance, and respect, particularly among our youth. In this spirit, we have proposed this theme for the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly, as the penholder of Resolution 78/229 of 19 December 2023, entitled “Strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in Particular its Technical Cooperation Capacity.”

In contemporary society, the prevention of crime requires a comprehensive and innovative approach. Among the most effective strategies, the promotion of sports has proven to be a powerful tool in this endeavor. The connection between sports and crime prevention is evident in the numerous benefits that athletic activities bring to individuals and communities, creating environments that deter criminal behavior and enhance social cohesion.

Firstly, participation in sports provides structured and constructive activities for individuals, especially for youths, during their leisure time. By engaging in sports, young people are less likely to succumb to delinquent behavior, as their time and energy are channeled into positive and productive pursuits. This engagement not only keeps them physically active but also mentally focused, thereby reducing the likelihood of criminal activities arising from idleness or negative peer influences.

Secondly, sports instill a sense of discipline, responsibility, and teamwork. These attributes are essential in shaping the character and behavior of individuals. Through regular training and competition, athletes learn the value of hard work, commitment, and adherence to rules. These lessons translate into better behavior and decision-making in other areas of life. The discipline acquired through sports can deter individuals from engaging in criminal activities, as they are more likely to understand and respect societal norms and regulations.

Moreover, sports foster social integration and community spirit. They bring together people from diverse backgrounds, promoting inclusivity and mutual respect. This sense of belonging and community support acts as a powerful deterrent against crime. When individuals feel connected to their community, they are less likely to engage in harmful activities. Additionally, the social networks formed through sports provide support and guidance, helping individuals navigate challenges without resorting to criminal behavior.

In line with these principles and priorities, Italy is actively investing on Sport as key driver and catalyst for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and for fostering peace, including through the implementation of a number of initiatives on the ground such as sport camps in developing countries, with direct involvement of Sport Federations.

Here at the UN, also as an active member of the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace, we co-sponsored and celebrated the recent World Football Day, proclaimed by this General Assembly, and we are working in the core-group of a possible UN Fair Play Day, to highlight another key value in sport.

Mr President,

The presence of positive role models is crucial in crime prevention, as it provides young people with alternative narratives and aspirations beyond what they might encounter in their immediate environment.

In this regard, I am honored to introduce to the General Assembly two distinguished Olympic champions that are today with us and sitting at Italy’s desk:

Valentina Vezzali, a foil fencer, has won six Olympic gold medals and is a 16-time world champion. She is one of only five athletes in the history of the Summer Olympics to win five medals in the same event;

and Antonio Fantin, a swimmer, has won six gold medals at the Paralympic Games and World Championships. In 2022, he was awarded the International Sports Prize for World Athlete of the Year. So, Valentina and Antonio, thanks for being with us today.

Both are esteemed members of Fiamme Oro, the police sports team. The Ministry of Interior is firmly convinced that sport can be an effective tool for crime prevention and, jointly with the Ministries of Justice and Sports , has promoted  sport programs for young people such as “Gyms of Legality” to engage them in sports and educational activities, and foster a culture of legality and social cohesion in degraded areas.

In conclusion, Mr. President, Italy remains dedicated to leveraging the power of sport to prevent crime and build peaceful and inclusive communities.

I Thank you