Children’s Rights and Sports

‘Children’s Rights and Sports’

Liz Twyford, Sports Programmes Specialist – UNICEF

Liz Twyford explained her role is focussed on sport and children’s rights for UNICEF, the world’s largest charity working for children’s rights. UNICEF coordinates international safeguards in sports. She highlighted the “three pillars” of children’s rights in sport.

1) The rights of children taking part in sport.
Twyford recalled recent high profile safeguarding failures in football, women’s basketball and gymnastics. She outlined three kinds of rights: protection rights, provision rights and participation rights. She asked, “How do we make sure we hear from children in sport?” She emphasised the importance of putting the child first: “We coach the child not the sport.”

2) The rights of children around sport.
“Children can be impacted by major sporting events in negative ways,” Twyford said. It could be big events where there is construction and families are forced to relocate. It may be extensive street clearances before the big sporting event. Children in families of workers in the sports supply chain can be affected – the children left behind when there is non-payment of wages for example.

Twyford emphasised how the concept of sustainability around events has developed considerably, particularly since the London Olympic Games of 2012. “There is now much more focus on social and economic sustainability.”

3) Children’s rights through sport.
Twyford said, “Sport is an incredible platform for change.” It can bring children together: “Teamwork, cooperation.” She spoke about the power of sport as a communication platform and referenced a successful campaign using the opening ceremony of last year’s Commonwealth Games. “How do we make sure children are safe? See children as human rights holders.
Really listen to children. Sport should be about fun, enjoyment, team-mates.”