In the beginning of January 2012, the first edition of the Youth Leadership Training Camp, organized by the United Nations (UNOSDP – United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace) in partnership with the NGO Right to Play, was held in Doha. The International Judo Federation was also present in Qatar to provide judo lessons to the young participants and to present the Judo for Peace program.
“For years, I have wanted to organize such a training camp,” explained Wilfried Lemke, the ‘Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and peace’ during the opening ceremony. “The selection process took us months and we were particularly rigorous and careful with their profiles. We wanted young people that are active in the field, men and women, without any preferential treatment in their country, and whose professionalism is well known. The primary criterion was that they must also use sport as a tool for social development in their respective environments,” added Mr. Lemke.
Thus, during the ten days of the Youth Leadership Training Camp, thirty young people were involved in all the theoretical and practical sessions, which were organized in the magnificent facilities of the Aspire Sports Centre in Doha. The group, which was highly homogeneous despite the different backgrounds, was composed of men and women from 10 different African countries and from Palestine, and everybody showed incredible enthusiasm for all the activities.
“I am particularly pleased that the International Judo Federation, under the leadership of its president, is taking part on the occasion of this first camp,” repeatedly explained Mr. Lemke, who on the occasion of a recent visit to Burundi, was able to appreciate the effectiveness of the Judo for Peace program, which is conducted throughout the world. “The International Judo Federation is an example to follow. It is active and effective and it is not an innocent choice to have asked the IJF to take part here in Doha,” the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations also emphasized.
What better way to illustrate this dynamic and practical spirit than to step onto the mat to discover judo, in order to understand the subtleties and the philosophy of our sport? In Qatar, Nicolas Messner, the IJF Media and Communication director, was in charge of the judo clinics. During four practical sessions, the young participants were invited to understand the founding principles of judo. For that, the IJF made judogi available to all participants, and furthermore, offered them to the young people so that they could return to their home country with the precious outfit and thus maybe stir up interest to continue judo in the upcoming months.
But beyond the real pleasure that was shared of being together on the mat, the main message that was offered to these young and dynamic volunteers, is that sport, and judo in particular, can and should be fantastic tools for the reconstruction of social environments that have been affected by crises. Even if some of the young participants went back home after the camp and will not continue judo, for sure they will remember that the judo principles are based on how to use minimum efforts for maximum efficiency and that mutual aid and prosperity are fundamental human values.
In a presentation illustrated with numerous examples, Jan Eirik Schiotz, the Judo for Peace director, also explained to all the participants, “YES, judo brings people together, people who have torn each other to pieces. YES, talking about respect still has meaning today, perhaps more than ever. In our sport, we want to be pragmatic. What counts is the results. How many children are concerned by our activities and how many projects are in process right now? Where does the help go and how is it distributed?” The International Judo Federation has developed a world circuit that determines the Olympic qualifications.
Everyday, Judo becomes more and more visible. And at the same time, the presence of our sport on the field for the benefit of local people, to develop a sense of community, continues to increase. No doubt that the training camp in Doha will have, on one hand, strengthened the humanist image of judo, and on the other hand, will have given some ideas to young people on how to use sport as a fantastic development tool.