x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Peace to get a sporting chance at Dubai forum

Ministers and representatives from countries around the region will attend a series of workshops, discussing intervention in schools and communities to foster peace.

DUBAI // An international forum to promote the use of sport as a tool for peace will be held in the emirate later this month.

Ministers and representatives from countries around the region will attend a series of workshops, discussing intervention in schools and communities to foster peace.

The goal of the Peace and Sport forum, organisers say, is to arrive at a "road map" from which they can promote the goals of peace within and between countries.

"Sport is an international language," said Rashid Al Kamali, director of marketing at Dubai Sports Council. "Through it we have a better chance of promoting peace."

The forum was established in Monaco in 2007, and aims to use sport to "foster social stability, reconciliation and dialogue between communities".

Current projects involve badminton for deprived children in Colombia, and "chess for leadership" programmes in areas of Palestine.

It is the first time the annual forum has been held in the Middle East, and Mr Al Kamali said 12 ministers had already agreed to attend - from Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

The event will be held in Dubai on April 23 and 24.

Mr Al Kamali said the first day will include workshops and dialogue on possible projects, while the second day would be spent drawing up a road map for future programmes in the region.

He said that the first forum in the region would deal sensitively with conflict areas. Issues such as the relationship between Iran and the Arab world, or Israel and Palestine, would not be touched upon.

"We didn't want to go into serious conflicts. We are not here to solve those issues. That's between the governments to solve that between themselves.

"We want to talk first, and find out what we want to achieve."

He said the project would mostly be orientated around community projects, rather than government-level coordination.

"We believe in not starting from the top down, but instead starting from the grassroots and then building from there," he said. "That's why, so far, no one has been able to make global peace."

Tarek Souei, technical manager of Al Ain Sports and Cultural Club, said the link between sport and peace had been well established.

"Sport has always been a magic tool to start the peace process, and reducing the gaps between people with conflicts.

"Even during the world wars, and economic crises, sport has been key to bringing people together."

As a nation that has housed different nationalities and creeds under one roof for the past 41 years, Mr Al Kamali said the UAE could export the lessons it had learnt about promoting community peace.

"With this experience and knowledge we want to export it to other countries which have issues related to these conflicts," he said.

"Everyone should understand the different thinking and culture of other nationalities, and therefore together we can build a better community."

mcroucher@thenational.ae