On UN 75th anniversary - youth offer vision for sports, culture and tourism recovery

Image of the international Olympic Committee short film on the benefits of sport during the pandemic.

On the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter, which came into being on 26 June 1945, Geneva youth leaders shared their vision for a healthy Covid-19 recovery in sports, tourism and culture with leading UN and international actors. The three sectors are iconic arenas of international cooperation - and also among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The dialogue reflects how multilateralism can play a role in building resilience.

Why does it matter? June 26 marks the 75th anniversary of the Charter in San Francisco that birthed the UN as we know it today, with its preamble, opening with the phrase “We the Peoples”. Today, as countries struggle to recover from Covid-19, dialogue between young people in the United Nations family is particularly important to address the challenges that lie ahead. As sectors that no know borders and also heavily patronized by youths, culture, sports and tourism are ideal starting points for the discussion.

To mark the 75th anniversary, a group of young students and researchers from the Graduate Institute, the University of Geneva and foraus, the Swiss think tank on foreign policy, gathered at the UN Office in Geneva to present their recommendations to UNESCO, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Tourism Organization about how to reduce the impacts of Covid-19 and build resilience. Their ideas, part of the broader UN75 Dialogue, will be presented to world leaders in September when member states will adopt the United Nations 75th anniversary Declaration.

Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General Fabrizio Hochschild:

“Multilateralism has always been an interplay of nationalism and shared global concerns, and it is increasingly so as we are now more interdependent, more interconnected than ever. Culture, tourism and sports, be it in different forms, have served as inspiring expressions of national identity and pride, and at the same time (…) have never really known borders.”

Culture. The pandemic has impacted the culture sector, which involves 30 million workers and 3% of global GDP, in an unprecedented way. Artists and other cultural actors have been deeply affected due to the fact that many are employed in the informal economy which has weaker social protections. And cultural activities involve mass gatherings, which have remained restricted even has lockdowns ease. At the same time, culture remains more important than ever as a unifying human principle. Paola Leoncini Bartoli, Director, Cultural Policies and Development, Culture Sector, UNESCO:

“The crisis has shown in a very concrete way the importance of culture. Do to the lack of social contact, connecting to culture has been vital for billion people around the world, for mental well-being and for building a sense of community.”

Tourism. Representing 10.3% of the global GDP and 300 million jobs, the industry was also devastated by lockdown related travel restrictions, many of which still remain in place. In certain countries travel also represents up to 50% of the GDP. Women and young people were the most and first to be hit in vulnerable countries. Globally there has been a 60-80% decline in international travel over the last three months, affecting tourism most of all.

Sports. The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games struck the sports community particularly hard. More broadly, some 2.5 billion people were unable to engage in outdoor sporting activities during lockdowns. And some 1,5 million students still cannot attend school - although remaining physically active is vital for their health. Thomas Back, President of the International Olympic Committee:

“This crisis has shown that sport is the low cost, high impact tool par excellence for all countries in their recovery efforts. Sport and physical activity contribute directly to physical and mental health. Sport can save lives.”

Student and young researchers’ recommendations

Sports. Yalan Liu and Fabian Ottiger from foraus called for “a new model for sports”. The UN and the International Olympic Comittee should work together on detailed plans for Covid-19 and recovery including:

  • Mental health: Along with lost opportunities for practice and comopetition, mental health issues were common among athletes facing isolation; addressing these also provides inspiration to the wider youth community for whom athletes are important role models.

  • Youth: School physical education (PE) curriculum should promote indoor-adapted sports skills as well as self-esteem.

  • Social inclusion: For women and migrants, sports can be a wonderful tool of inclusion. Sports should therefore be part of every national and international recovery plan.

Tourism. Cécilia Raziano and Raphaël Languillon from the University of Geneva highlighted the following:

  • Local tourism operators: They suffered the most, and governments and industry leaders need to work with local actors in a bottom-up process to pinpoint the problems and find solutions, based on the unique qualities of diverse regions and tourism sites.

  • Assess impacts: In designing recovery plans, impacts on tourism operators need to be carefully measured both directly: (hotel bookings, transport trips, site visits), and indirectly (tourism-related economic outputs).

Culture. Graduate Institute students Tanya Kini and Paras Arora addressed say that “seductive one size for all solutions”, such as the shifting of cultural activities online, don’t really work for the following reasons:

  • Socio-economic limitations: lack of adequate digital infrastructure especially among cultural minorities;

  • Legal and ethical aspects: Digital cultural events or sites are susceptible to legal disputes (e.g. over artistics ownership of cultural materials, creating new ethical dilemmas.