27 June 2008Sports can help bring people together, as witnessed by major international competitions such as the Soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games, the United Nations envoy tasked with promoting sport for development and peace said today. “Sport is a universal language that unites people and breaks down barriers, whether they are ethical, religious, economic or social,” Wilfried Lemke told reporters, as he briefed them on his activities during his first few months as the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace.A former athlete and sports teacher, Mr. Lemke added that sports have a vital role in society, as they teach fundamental values such as discipline, fair play, confidence and tolerance.He also echoed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in noting that sports can be an instrument to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of anti-poverty targets world leaders pledged to achieve by 2015. He had a chance to witness how sports can be used to promote development during a recent visit to Africa that took him to the poor townships in South Africa and the slums of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, where his Office had some initiatives for children in partnership with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).Mr. Lemke will be lacing up his running shoes in November, when he plans to participate in the New York City Marathon to raise money for a project in Nairobi. Prior to that, the Special Adviser will be heading to Beijing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He will be chairing a meeting of the International Working Group on Sports for Development and Peace ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony on 8 August.Later today in New York, he will be meeting with the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace, an informal group of 36 ambassadors to the UN.