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United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
19 September 2011
UN SPECIAL ADVISER ON SPORT ENGAGES IN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
19 September 2011
The Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, has just concluded a three-day visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. At a time when the eyes of the world are turned to the region once again and when the question of Palestinian statehood is highly prominent on the international agenda, the Special Adviser is determined to continue his work in mobilizing the power of sport to open up channels of dialogue and mutual understanding, and driving social development in the region.
Following his visits to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in June 2009 and February 2011, Mr. Lemke was invited by Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, Ms. Limor Livnat, to address the participants of the “Sport as a Mediator between Cultures” conference, organized jointly with Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior, following a Protocol of Cooperation signed between the two Ministries in November 2010.
On Thursday, along with several other dignitaries and keynote speakers (including Minister Livnat and Germany’s Parliamentary State Secretary Dr. Christoph Bergner), the Special Adviser gave a welcome statement at the opening ceremony of the conference held in Netanya, Israel.
“Let us all be ambassadors and mediators of the positive potential and best values of sport,” he urged, “and build bridges of exchange, respect and tolerance to overcome difficult situations of conflict and misunderstanding.” He continued: “Creating positive change is not always easy, and circumstances can sometimes go against you. But we must all persevere and continue our much-needed work despite sometimes some unfavourable conditions.”
Mr. Lemke further praised the conference as an opportunity to strengthen and intensify friendly cooperation between all institutions and participants present, and to act as a platform to exchange best practice and develop partnerships; a position he reiterated during the panel discussion in which he took part on Friday.
On the sidelines of the conference, Mr. Lemke also took the opportunity to invite a delegation of high-ranking participants to join him on a visit to Ramallah (West Bank) to meet with Mr. Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian National Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Federation, and Vice-President and Secretary-General of the Palestinian Higher Council of Sports.
On the agenda was the issue of the free movement of both Israeli and Palestinian athletes, coaches, officials and sport material across the region. On that occasion, Mr. Lemke once again expressed his support in favour of the discussions being held between the National Olympic Committees of Israel and Palestine (under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee), and actively sought wider support for this initiative throughout his mission there.
On Saturday, Mr. Lemke visited a project being implemented by the NGO Budo for Peace in Jisr az-Zarqa, an Arab town located on the Israeli coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In this impoverished community, plagued with high levels of poverty and a general lack of opportunities, karate has successfully being used since December 2009 to foster child development and pacific coexistence.
Mr. Lemke is today and tomorrow in New York for the United Nations High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases and will travel to Beijing on Wednesday for the Fourteenth World Conference on Sport for All, organised under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and SportAccord.
For more information:
Antoine Tardy, Advocacy and Communications Officer
UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: +41 (0)22 917 47 12; fax: +41 (0)22 917 07 12
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