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Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to host today’s event on, “Children, Sport and Development”. I thank my dear colleague, Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica, for being with me. Let me thank also UNICEF, the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children for joining us. I look forward to hearing our remarkable panelists’ contributions.

Last 20th of November we all celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with high level events and a landmark concert in the General Assembly Hall.

Today we would like to focus on a special topic at the crossroads of children’s future: their right to sport as a means for education and sustainable development.

Sport is a key element in the healthy development of children and, as such, it is one of their fundamental rights. Sport promotes friendship and fair play, teamwork and discipline, respect for each other and all those quality practices that help a child become an individual aware and supportive, to learn to cope with life’s challenges and develop self-esteem and leadership skills.

Sports are not only valid means to achieve important educational goals: they are goals in themselves, as they offer concrete application to the fundamental right to play, as set out by article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Women’s sports helps to combat prejudice and gender stereotypes, clichés bordering girls with established roles, often in an inferior position compared to males.

Through decades of development cooperation and civil society programmes, we have been learning that sports can also facilitate the social integration of vulnerable children, such as orphans, disabled children, former child soldiers, children of displaced persons and refugees, children from ethnic minorities or indigenous peoples.

Through sport, the fun and the game children and adolescents learn some of the most important values of life. Besides having a key role in transforming children into responsible adults, sport brings together young people, helps them to face the daily challenges and overcome cultural, linguistic, religious, social, ideological differences.

This universal language can bridge gaps and promote the core values necessary for tolerance and lasting peace. On the playing field cultural differences and political priorities disappear. Children who play sports understand that you can interact without coercion or exploitation.

That’s why Italy, along with UN Agencies, the European Union and civil society, is increasingly committed to integrating recreational activities and sports in national educational programmes.

The Italian government has recently introduced a reform bill for the primary school system. According to the reform bill, sports will be introduced in all the primary schools of the country as mandatory school practice.

Bringing sport in primary schools has an extraordinary social impact because it means increasing educational focus on the psychological and physical health of children, promoting social inclusion, and combating all degenerative phenomena such as bullying and violence.

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once said, “Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers”.

There could be no better description of Inter Campus, a non-profit social initiative of the renowned Italian soccer team F.C. Internazionale (Inter Milan). Inter Campus provides assistance to needy children and young people in more than 25 countries around the world. They also gain access to health and education services often absent from their own villages. And they discover opportunities that are missing from their daily lives.

I am really happy that Mr. Massimo Moratti, former President of Inter Milan, and Mr. Javier Zanetti, former captain of the team as well as of the Argentinean national team, and today Vice President of Inter Milan, are here with us. They will illustrate the variety of Inter Campus’s extraordinary contributions in this field.

Looking at next years’s session of the General Assembly and the important processes ahead of us for the definition of the post-2015 development agenda, we must not undermine the fact that sport is also a crucial means to promote sustainable development. It has already proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives. Since the inception of the UN MDGs in 2000, sport has played a vital role in enhancing each of the eight goals.

Because of this and based on the wider success of Sport for Development and Peace activities and programmes across multiple sectors, sport will continue to advance global development and can also assist in the work towards, and the achievement of, the SDGs.

We are very grateful to Ms. Amina Mohammed, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Agenda, for being here with us today. We look forward to hearing her valuable contribution to this discussion just a few days after the presentation of the SG Synthesis Report on Post-2015!