Children's rights and football's social power were focal points when the UN visited UEFA headquarters on Wednesday.
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On World Children's Day, celebrated annually on 20 November and which this year marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Tatiana Valovaya, new director-general of the United Nations Office at Geneva, met UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin. Together they visited the offices of the UEFA Foundation for Children – the body set up by UEFA to find ways in which football can help improve children's well-being.
The talks in Nyon, which underlined the strong relations between football's governing body in Europe and the UN's Geneva base, focused on the different ways that UEFA is making a difference to thousands of children's lives, both in Europe and beyond.
Leveraging football's societal role to further the Rights of the Child
Opened for signing on 20 November 1989, the convention sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of race, religion or abilities.
"On the 30th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we are very pleased to welcome Tatiana Valovaya," said Aleksander Čeferin.
"UEFA and its foundation hope to pursue this partnership by using football's societal role to protect children and reduce inequalities," added the UEFA president, who chairs the foundation's board of trustees.
UEFA Foundation projects benefitting one million children in 94 countries
The UEFA Foundation for Children was established by UEFA in 2015 with the aim of using football to support humanitarian projects linked to children's rights in areas such as health, education and integration.
Over the past four years, the foundation has aided 201 projects in 94 countries, with an estimated one million people across the globe benefitting from its work.
"We are in a privileged position and we must use this to help children living in challenging and difficult circumstances around the world," said Mr Čeferin.
Teaming up with UEFA on the pitch for the Match for Solidarity
In a notable joint venture between the two institutions last year, UEFA and the UN Office at Geneva joined forces to stage the Match for Solidarity in the Swiss city – an event which highlighted the importance of the positive social impact that football is able to generate.
Two teams of football legends, captained by Portuguese ace Luís Figo and Brazilian star Ronaldhino, played in front of 23,000 fans at the Stade de Genève, with the match raising €684,400 to fund humanitarian and development schemes around the world.
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Aligning with the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
A particular key driving message behind the Match for Solidarity was to promote peace, human rights and well-being across the world, through the Sustainable Development Goals as set out by the United Nations.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals align with the UEFA Foundation for Children's fundamental goals to promote equal opportunities for every child, through the use of football as an awareness and information tool.
"I thank president Aleksander Čeferin for his kind invitation to the UEFA headquarters, and I hope we can continue this very fruitful cooperation," said Tatiana Valovaya.
"Through the important role that sport holds in society and our team work to achieve the SDGs, each and every one of us can be part of the solutions we need for today's world challenges."
Mr Čeferin added: "Our partnership with the United Nations Office at Geneva has already enabled UEFA to support programmes that are aligned with the objectives of Goal 10 of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, to defend the rights of children with disabilities."
UEFA's social return on investment (SROI) model – measuring amateur football's impact against UN Sustainable Development Goals
UEFA is also making a measurable difference – through its UEFA GROW project – to the SDGs, by creating a social return on investment model (SROI) to measure the current impact of mass football participation and to forecast the impact of additional investment.
The econometric model, recognised by the European Union, Council of Europe and the World Health Organisation as academically robust, is based on UEFA data and research that are peer-reviewed across different disciplines such as health, education, sociology and sport, and applied to the footprint of amateur football in a given country.
It allows UEFA to put an economic value on mass participation in amateur football.
The model evaluates benefits for:
- Economic value of football consumption and employment (direct and indirect)
- Revenue generated from infrastructure investment and facility hire
- Positive social impact through social cohesion, inclusion and integration, e.g. reduction in crime, improved education performance, etc.
- Healthier population through rigorous physical activity and healthcare savings, e.g. reduced risk of conditions such as diabetes and reduced risk of heart disease
So far, the model has been applied in 11 countries – Belarus, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Northern Ireland, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Scotland and Sweden.
In these countries, the participation of 2.8 million registered players in clubs has contributed €8.4 billion in economic benefits (€1.9bn direct contribution to the economy; €2.7bn economic benefit of social impacts; and €3.8bn in healthcare savings).
Top photo (left to right): UEFA Foundation general secretary Urs Kluser, United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) head of the Perception Change Project Aziyade Poltier-Mutal, UNOG director-general Tatiana Valovaya, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin and UNOG director-general chief of cabinet David Chikvaidze