Governments and private organizations have long been using sport as a tool in global development and humanitarian aid because of its ability to transform lives in unique and powerful ways. In fact, there are few areas in development where sport cannot be used as a platform to strengthen communities and improve lives. At the field level, numerous programs have been harnessing the power of sport to advance shared objectives around global health, nutrition, education, peacekeeping and gender equality. The success of these efforts is bringing unprecendented focus, coordination and strategic thinking to the issue.

During the 66th United Nations General Assembly, USAID convened this diverse and notable group of stakeholders to further an on-going conversation on sport as a catalyst to advance our common development goals around the world. Over 200 guests including government officials NGO leaders and notable sports athletes for In the Arena: Sport as a Catalyst for Development. Speakers included Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg, Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill and Senior Advisor, Sport for Development Mori Taheripour. Other officials speaking included Congressman Russ Carnahan, Ambassador Rick Barton and UN Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace Wilfried Lemke.

The conversation that followed was moderated by Bob Ley of ESPN and included baseball legend and humanitarian Pedro Martinez, basketball legend and NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo, Olympic gold medalist and founder of Right to Play Johann Koss and Doug Michelman, Global Head of Corporate Relations for VISA. The event was hosted by Jeremy Schaap, also of ESPN. The conversation focused on the important role that athletes and the private sector can play in accomplishing development goals.

The event was the first step of a new initiative that will be undertaken by USAID to strengthen the agency’s use of sport as a catalyst for development.