The draft Global Charter Towards the Combating and Elimination of Racism-Discrimination in Sport in the 21st Century opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
This statement set the tone – and became a mantra – for the first international summit of Global Watch: Say No to Racism-Discrimination in all Sport, held in Johannesburg on 20 and 21 November.
Global Watch is driven by a strategic partnership that comprises the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Doha Goals Forum Foundation and the Sexwale Foundation, and was established to challenge the practice of racism and discrimination in global sport.
The summit, which endeavoured to concretise these efforts through the formation of a Global Charter, was attended by representatives from international sporting organisations, leading sporting figures, anti-racism and discrimination activists, government representatives and civil society.
Speakers and panellists included former South Africa rugby captain François Pienaar, former UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay and South African gender activist Nomboniso Gasa. Digital messages of support were also received from FIFA President Sepp Blatter, head of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and celebrity talk-show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey.
Former President Thabo Mbeki opened the summit, emphasising the universal relevance of Global Watch. Speaking of the millions of sports supporters across the world, Mbeki commented: “Global Watch seeks to mobilise not only sportspeople themselves, but these people [the supporters] as well. We all share the same interest that Global Watch should achieve its purposes.”
Mbeki also focused his attention on the necessity for concerted implementation efforts to arise from the summit, a sentiment echoed by Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace. “We must commit to implementing the issues discussed at the summit,” said Lemke. “This is the responsibility of everyone involved in this process and we need to leverage our existing relationships to ensure that actions are taken.”
In the same vein, Tokyo Sexwale, one of the founders of Global Watch and a prominent political and social activist, spoke of the continuation of the initiative’s efforts beyond the summit: “The process doesn’t end here. We intend to host national summits in all countries, and thanks to the United Nations, we are working towards that.”
With the summit successfully launched, discussions began in earnest on the second day with a keynote address by President Jacob Zuma and a response by Professor Njabulo Ndebele, the Chair of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Said President Zuma, “Given our experiences, the campaign against racism in sport finds a natural home in South Africa. We have experienced it, we hate it, and we are determined to fight racism wherever it rears its ugly head, because we know its impact. We know that it can destroy nations and peoples if it is not eradicated. We are therefore proud today to add our voices to the billions of others throughout the world that are determined to do everything possible to say ‘no’ and to put an end to racism in sports.
“Whilst this summit is specifically about racism in sports, we need to take our discussions further in order to deal sufficiently with the root causes of racism in all facets of social life. In other words, our point of departure should be the understanding that racism in sports will not end unless our actions to achieve its end are related to efforts to exorcise the demon of racism in society in general.”
Said Professor Ndebele, “Madiba’s legacy has created the opportunity for us to achieve a common future in which democracy is an everyday reality. This is a journey that is our collective responsibility as active citizens and it cannot be achieved without the values of true sportsmanship, passion, pride and mutual respect. Together we share the commitment towards inclusion.”
The summit proceeded to unpack the many complex layers involved in an undertaking of this significance and magnitude – from education processes to context-specific initiatives and practical implementation efforts.
“This Charter can only be implemented in the kind of world that Madiba wanted us to live in,” said Sexwale, speaking of a world founded on respect and acceptance. With the establishment of an international movement committed to combating racism and discrimination, the possibility of creating such a world has been invested with new life.