By Will Shand from Brussels, Belgium: Sept 8, 2015: International experts and leading policy-makers gathered in Brussels today to call for greater action by sports bodies and governments to combat trafficking of young people through sport, as well as underlining sport’s vital role in educating and enhancing social development.
With the international movement of young athletes rising dramatically over recent years, the call was made by officials today at a conference hosted by ICSS EUROPE in cooperation with the European Commission, which brought together leading figures from sport, child protection and youth development and education.
Taking place during the EU Week of Sport, international organisations attending the conference included: the European Commission, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, United Nations, International Labour Organisation, government organisations, UEFA and other representatives from the sport and Olympic movement, as well leading NGOs.
Speaking at the conference, Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, CEO of ICSS EUROPE said:
“According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world. However, trafficking of young athletes through sport, particularly football, is still a taboo in the industry.
“As an international organisation working to protect sport, the ICSS is committed to protecting young athletes and raising awareness about the growing issue of child trafficking in sport. Young athletes are not commodities. They are human beings and must be treated as such.
“As a week-long initiative of the European Commission that celebrates sport and physical activity and the positive role it can play in society, the EU Week of Sport was an important platform to raise awareness of the issue and place the topic in the minds of influential decision-makers.
“Today also reinforces the ICSS’s commitment to safeguarding young people and I would like to encourage governments, law enforcement agencies and other experts in child protection to ensure that clear, practical and effective standards on recruitment, training, education and protection of children and young people are applied across all sports.”
Pascal Reyntjens, Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) – Belgium & Luxembourg said:
“There is definitely a link between mobility of young athletes and trafficking. It is important that we put the issue of the child trafficking through sport, particularly from Africa to sports clubs in Europe, on the agenda of leading organisations in government and sport.
“Despite the clear progress made in the protection of minors and young athletes recently, further discussion between sports organisations and other bodies working in this area must take place.”
The conference also highlighted several themes underling the role of sport in education and how it can enhance economic and social development.
Speaking at the end of the conference, football superstar and UEFA Global Ambassador, Christian Karembeu said:
“Sport has the aim to bring people together. It is has the power to change the world and to unite people beyond regions, beyond colours. Sport has no borders and is universal.
“Through sport, we speak the same language. In sport, we have the same rules, the same life and have the same opportunities. Sport is also a powerful tool for integration and inclusion in wider society.
“I am very proud to be here today and have a strong interest in the topics discussed. Education through sport is very important and through it, we can have balance.”
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