June 01, 2022
MADRID – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) to deepen its work with the Olympic Movement by providing refugees and other forcibly displaced persons the opportunity to practice sport at all levels.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, signed the memorandum of understanding during a meeting of the ORF board of directors in Madrid, at the headquarters of the Spanish Olympic Committee. President Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee signed on behalf of the ORF.
The signing comes days after ORF and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team were awarded the prestigious 2022 Princess of Asturias Award for Sport.
UNHCR and the IOC have a long-standing partnership and collaborated to establish the Olympic Refuge Foundation in 2017. The ORF is committed to supporting the protection, sporting and personal development of forcibly displaced people, in beyond Olympic events, with the aim of reaching one million young people by 2024.
Organized and development-oriented sports activities can help normalize the lives of young people disrupted by conflict and forced displacement. They provide opportunities for greater inclusion and protection to help young people heal, develop and grow. Sport can also empower refugee communities and help forge closer ties with host communities.
UNHCR’s Sport for Protection approach builds on this understanding and on sport’s unique ability to actively and meaningfully engage young people. Sport for Protection programs aim to achieve, at a minimum, positive outcomes in three areas: social inclusion, social cohesion and psychosocial well-being.
Since 2014, together with the IOC and ORF, UNHCR has implemented meaningful sports activities in Jordan, Ethiopia, Colombia, Rwanda, Mexico, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kakuma in Kenya.
UNHCR also worked with the IOC to bring refugee athletes to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics as the first ever Refugee Olympic Team and repeated this in Tokyo 2021. Since September 2021, ORF has assumed overall responsibility for the IOC Refugee Athletes program and managing the Refugee Olympic Team at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Today’s signing reflects UNHCR’s increased focus on the role sport and sports organizations can play in refugee responses, and is part of a growing number of partnerships with sports organizations working to achieve better results for people forced to flee. Other partnerships include UEFA, Special Olympics and the International Judo Federation.