Azerbaijani desire for peace highlighted at International Peace and Sport Forum in Monaco

Press Release: Monaco, 23–25 November 2016: The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) highlighted the plight of Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the country’s experience in dealing with those communities, during the ninth edition of the international Peace and Sport Forum held from 23–25 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 the Monaco-based Peace and Sport Organisation in early November in support of the One Step for Peace charity campaign.

This year, the Forum took place in the context of the global refugee and migrant crisis. There were almost 64m refugees, IDPs and asylum seekers around the globe in 2015. The recent tremendous wave of immigration to Europe due to the wars that currently ravage Iraq and Syria has pushed the issue of how to provide humanitarian assistance without jeopardising security to the top of the political agenda.  

Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, took to the floor at a session on the final day entitled New arrivals: sport as an integration catalyst. Participants comprised representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the European Commission, NGOs and athletes, who considered the methods by which sport can be used to support integration processes for the well-being of refugees, migrants and IDPs. Mr Zetter shared the Azerbaijani experience and best practice in this field. He reminded attendees that Azerbaijan was very much aware of these issues, as the country has been dealing with nearly one million refugees and IDPs for 25 years. Due to the ongoing Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, nearly one out of nine people living in Azerbaijan is currently a refugee or IDP, which constitutes one of the highest ratios per capita in the world. Tragically, a whole new generation has now been born as IDPs and refugees.

In his speech, Mr Zetter also presented the policies of the Azerbaijani government since 1994, the date of ceasefire, for its IDP and refugee population. He spoke about the role of TEAS in highlighting the plight of these ongoing victims to European leaders through sport-related initiatives, and provided concrete examples of Azerbaijani athletes and champions 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 subsequently TEAS donated €20,000 to the field programmes of the Peace and Sport Organisation.

Commenting on the TEAS partnership with Peace and Sport, Lionel Zetter commented: “It has been an enormous privilege for TEAS 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 nearly one million refugees and IDPs. 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 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.

About Peace and Sport

Peace and Sport is a neutral and independent organisation based in the Principality of Monaco, which works to promote sport as a tool for peace. Founded by current President Joël Bouzou in 2007, Peace and Sport is a global initiative under the High Patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Peace and Sport acts to put sport at the heart of concerted, effective and relevant political action, to make sport a catalyst for peace. For more information go to: www.peace-sport.org