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Learning to use sports as a vehicle of conflict resolution

As people around the world reacted in horror to the dramatic television images of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier this week, youth leaders from ten countries were learning techniques on using sports for conflict resolutions.

A camp organised by Generations for Peace at Abu Dhabi.
A camp organised by Generations for Peace at Abu Dhabi.

The camp, being attended by some 60 delegates from several countries including India, has been organised by Generations for Peace, a global initiative launched in 2007 and aimed at using sports as a vehicle for bringing people from all sides of the divide together.

The camp, being held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister, has strengthened the resolve of the participants to make a real difference within their own communities, a spokesman for the organisers said.

“Many of the delegates hail from war torn communities which have endured many years of trouble and they are here in Abu Dhabi to learn new skills and knowledge that may not have been tried before,” said Prince Feisal Al Hussein, of Jordan, Generations For Peace Founder and Chairman.

“Never has there been a greater need for initiatives like Generations For Peace to make an impact on the regions that need it most,” he said.

Generations For Peace is a global initiative that brings together leaders of youth from divided communities and trains them how to use sport to unite the young. The latest sessions focused on how the delegates can work with children and they also learned new volleyball coaching skills which will allow them to create active sessions when they return home.

The Abu Dhabi camp is also using football, softball and basketball as sports for the delegates to learn under the guidance of professional coaches from across the world. Leading scholars in conflict resolution are also on hand to work with delegates to address problems within their communities.

Generations For Peace has held two previous camps in the Jordanian capital of Amman which had attracted 150 delegates who have in turn returned home to cascade the programme to hundreds of like minded youth leaders and thousands of children.
Abu Dhabi marks the first time that a camp has been held outside of Jordan and it has received delegates from India, Nigeria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia as well as the host country, UAE.

The camps also teach participants how to train other trainers, who can then plan and implement sporting programmes with children through a series of workshops, interactive seminars, presentations, debates, role-play and sporting sessions. Peace Pioneers are expected to train at least 20 trainers every year; work with at least 100-200 children annually; be an advocate for peace and to promote Generations For Peace; and to support other Peace Pioneers.

One of the participants at this year's camp is Jacob Naish, who has seen the power that football posesses. Working in Africa and setting up football in the community programmes, he has watched the smiles return to the faces of children that previously had little hope for the future.

And now he believes that football has an even greater role to play as part of the curriculum for the Generations For Peace camp.

“This is the second time that I have worked on a Generations For Peace camp and it is humbling to hear of some of the problems that its delegates face back home within their communities,” said the coach who works for British club Brighton & Hove Albion. “I have been hugely impressed though by the unique way that Generations For Peace addresses these problems and teaches its delegates methods on how to use sport to bring young people together.”

Naish was joined in Abu Dhabi by Brighton legend Charlie Oatway who has played more than 500 games as a professional footballer and was on hand to pass on his tips from a successful career to the delegates.

One of the trainers at the camp is Prof Olivier Faure, a renowned expert in conflict resolution, who works alongside professional sports coaches to help create peace building activities.

Mr Faure is a Professor of Sociology at the Sorbonne University, Paris, where he teaches International Negotiation, and brings his expertise into a unique environment by combining it with practical sporting sessions carried out by professional coaches from basketball, football, volleyball and softball.

“To see so many people from a variety of backgrounds and countries come together in one room to discuss peace can only be a good thing,” he said. “This is the first time I have worked with Generations For Peace and I believe it can make a real difference in communities that need it most.”

The ten-day camp will end on March 10.

INT

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