Baku, November 28, AZERTAC
The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) highlighted the plight of Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs, and the country’s experience in dealing with those communities during the 9th iteration of the international Peace and Sport Forum that took place from 23 to 25 November under the High Patronage of H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco. The event came in the wake of the signing of a partnership agreement between TEAS and Peace and the Sport organisation based in Monaco in early November in support of the “One Step for Peace” charity campaign.
This year, the Forum took place in the context of global refugee and migrant crisis. There were almost 64 million refugees and IDPs and asylum seekers around the globe in 2015. The recent tremendous wave of immigration to Europe as a result of the wars that currently ravage Iraq and Syria has pushed to the top of the political agenda the issue of how to provide humanitarian assistance without jeopardising security.
Lionel Zetter, Director of TEAS, took to the floor at a session on the final day entitled “New arrivals: sport as an integration catalyst”. This session composed notably by representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the European Commission, NGOs and athletes, looked at how sport can be used to support the integration processes for the wellbeing of refugees, migrant and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Lionel Zetter shared Azerbaijan’s experience and best practices in this field. He reminded that Azerbaijan was very aware of these issues as the country has been dealing with nearly one million refugees and IDPs for 25 years. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, nearly one out of nine people living in Azerbaijan is a refugee or IDP, one of the highest ratios per capita in the world. Tragically a whole new generation have now been born as refugees. In his speech, Lionel Zetter also presented what the Azerbaijani government has been doing since 1994, the date of ceasefire, for its refugee population. He also spoke about the role of TEAS in highlighting the plight of refugees and IDPs to European leaders through sport related initiatives and, provided concrete examples of athletes and champions in Azerbaijan with an IDP background.
During the Forum, delegates were invited to wear pedometers as part of the ‘One Step for Peace’ charity campaign. The total number of steps were calculated at the end of the three days, and as a result TEAS donated 20,000€ to the field programmes of Peace and Sport organisation.
Commenting on TEAS partnership with Peace and Sport, Lionel Zetter said: “It has been an enormous privilege for The European Azerbaijan Society to partner with Peace and Sport. We share the same values of using sport as a tool to improve lives and to promote peace. This is particularly relevant to Azerbaijan, as we have one million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. In particular we were pleased to sponsor the ‘One Step for Peace’ initiative. That is because we realise that peace is a gradual process, and it can only be achieved one step at a time.”
The ninth iteration of the Peace and Sport International Forum brought together around 500 opinion-formers and stakeholders from the worlds of sport and peace – athletes, institutions, governments, sponsors, and charitable associations – focusing on the theme: ‘Game on for peace: mobilising global change through sport’. These experts discussed how sport could help to foster sustainable peace and forge agents of change, resulting in “a better, fairer and more united world”.
Speakers included the three Tunisian Nobel Peace Prize winners Abdessatar Ben Moussa, Mohammed Fadhel Mahfoudh and Ouided Bouchamaoui, Charmaine Crooks (Athletics, Canada), five-time Olympian and Olympic silver medallist; Pàl Schmitt (Fencing, Hungary), IOC member, double Olympian and former Hungarian President; and Aya Medani (Modern Pentathlon, Egypt), triple Olympian and many others.
Peace and Sport is a neutral and independent organization based in the Principality of Monaco, which works to promote sport as a tool for peace. Founded by current President Joel Bouzou in 2007, Peace and Sport is a global initiative under the High Patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco.