SPECIAL ADVISER ON SPORT VISITS ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
Geneva, Switzerland (UNOSDP) – This week Wilfried Lemke traveled to Israel and the State of Palestine on a mission to promote sport as a catalyst for peace-building and reconciliation.
The Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace started his visit on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, Israel, with a meeting with former President of the country, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres, who is also the founder of the Peres Centre for Peace. Since its creation in 1996, the Centre has been fostering tolerance and cooperation between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel and the wider Middle East, breaking down barriers and changing attitudes towards the “other” through a broad range of programmes for all age groups. Many of these use sport activities for peace education – one example is the WAB Peace Camp, which in 2009 was endorsed by the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) for promoting friendship, understanding and respect through basketball.
During the meeting, Mr. Lemke reiterated his readiness to support the Centre in any initiative which would contribute to peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The Special Adviser also met with high-level officials from the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Israel and with the CEO of the local National Olympic Committee Gilad Lustig, to map out cooperation plans between Israeli sport entities and UNOSDP.
On Wednesday, Mr. Lemke traveled to Bethlehem, State of Palestine, to inaugurate the extension building of the Dar-Al Kalima Indoor Sports Hall. Owned by the Diyar Consortium, the hall is one of the largest indoor sports venues in Palestine and offers facilities for football, gymnastics and volleyball, tennis and handball – all accessible for people with disabilities. It is also home to the Diyar Women Sports Centre that provides girls and women with an opportunity to engage in sport and education programmes, and acquire the necessary skills for them to enter the employment market.
The newly opened extension building, which contains sanitation facilities and changing rooms, was essential to completing the Sports Hall. The construction project was selected by UNOSDP to benefit from the funds donated by HRH Princess Haya Bint al Hussein.
“I am very pleased that my office played an active role in the funding and implementation of this project which will open up access to sport for hundreds of locals. Participation in sport and physical activity is a basic human right, and has outstanding potential to improve the quality of life of individuals and communities”, said Mr. Lemke addressing the audience at the Inauguration Ceremony.
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The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) works to promote sport as an innovative and efficient tool in advancing the United Nations’ goals, missions and values. Through advocacy, partnership facilitation, policy work, project support and diplomacy, UNOSDP strives to maximize the contribution of sport and physical activity to help create a safer, more secure, sustainable and equitable future.
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