It was time to celebrate Human Rights Day! But why do human rights matter to sport and physical activity?

By Alessandra Texeira  

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December. The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), on 10 December, 1958. The UDHR was the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the recently founded United Nations.

But why is NowWeMOVE interested in talking about human rights? How do sports, physical activities and human rights relate? Wait… Do they relate to each other at all?

Sports, human rights and NowWe MOVEIf we could reduce human rights to one basic principle, it would be that all people are entitled to minimum standards in terms of material and personal well-being. Such standards are stated in human rights legislation. Human rights legislation is, then, a framework that replaces the charity aspect of granting dignity to all human beings through a structure of rights and responsibilities. It recognises that people are not beneficiaries of charity, but active rights holders. And it identifies corresponding duty bearers against whom claims can be held.

NowWeMOVE members are very conscious of the significance and benefits of sport and being active to our physical and psychological health. Sport can play a great role in a person’s social life, being a way to congregate and associate. Sport and physical activity are also closely intertwined with cultural life and artistic expression of many communities – basketball, for example, is considered as one of the most visible components of African-American cultural expression in the twentieth century.

Knowing, then, that the fundamental principle of human rights is that all persons are entitled to minimum standards of well-being – and being aware of the great importance of grassroots sports and physical activity to the achievement of any person’s general well-being – we can easily conclude that the practice of sport and physical activity is a human right.

And why does that matter? When physical activity is understood as a human right, it should be respected, protected and fulfilled as any other human right. Sports, human rights and NowWeMOVETo establish advocacy for sport and physical activity in legal norms will place it on solid ground and give it greater credibility.

Legal norms can be used to achieve related objectives (e.g. the right to have physical education at schools or the construction of public facilities). Likewise, physical activity can be used as a mean to advance other human rights: the right to health, the right to association, the right to cultural life. Can you think of any others? If you can, please feel free to add your comments below.

Alessandra Teixeira is an international human rights lawyer, researcher and educator. She holds a master degree from Lund University in Sweden She has worked for international organisations such as the UN Human Rights Council and UNESCO.

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