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Role of Sport in Countering Xenophobia in Ukraine Discussed with UN Under-Secretary-General

2 July 2012

At the final days of the EURO 2012 football tournament in Ukraine and Poland, the UN Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace Mr. Wilfried Lemke  visited Kyiv upon the UEFA invitation. As the issues of sport, migration and cultural diversity are traditionally connected in global context, Mr. Lemke, inter alia, had an opportunity to learn firsthand how the rights of migrants are protected and racism and xenophobia are addressed in Ukraine.

At the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mr. Lemke met Ukrainian non-governmental organizations working in this sphere and united by the Diversity Initiative (DI), a network of over 60 organizations, co-chaired by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and IOM.

Mr. Lemke shared his vision on how sport can be used for promoting cultural diversity on a global level, and learned about the activities of the DI members.  Representatives of the African Council of Ukraine, the Congress of National Minorities, the International Roma Women Foundation Chirikli and No Borders Project of  ?Social Action? Center briefed Mr. Lemke on their practices of promoting cultural diversity through sport, for example through football tournaments for mixed teams or between Africans residing in Ukraine and staff of municipal and law enforcement agencies.

The UNHCR Regional Representative Mr. Oldrich Andrysek and IOM Ukraine?s Chief of Mission Mr. Manfred Profazi briefed Mr.Lemke on the general situation as regards to the rights of migrants and asylum seekers in Ukraine, underlining some issues that could be addressed jointly, such as improving access of young migrants to sport activities to facilitate their integration into society.

The UN Special Adviser on Sport leads the efforts of the UN system at a high political level to promote understanding and support for sport as a tool for development and peace.  Mr. Lemke, holding this post since 2008, was in Ukraine with a two-day visit. The programme of his stay included meetings with senior Ukrainian governmental officials and the UN Country Team.  

The Diversity Initiative Network, co-chaired by IOM Ukraine and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was set up in 2007 in response to a sharp rise of racially motivated attacks in Ukraine. Currently it has over 60 members from various spheres. With a geographically wide reach and broad spectrum of expertise it provides a strong platform for monitoring, information sharing, legislative analysis and awareness-raising. As a result of DI members? hard work and commitment, the USA-based non-profit international organization Human Rights First recently named the Diversity Initiative one of three international best practices in combating racism and xenophobia. The Diversity Initiative Network currently functions on a voluntary basis and is seeking external funding in order to continue its important and unique activities.

For further information please contact IOM Ukraine Communications Officer Ms. Varvara Zhluktenko (568 50 15, 067 447 97 92, vzhluktenko@iom.int)

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