Pursuing The Spread of Human Rights Education Through the Olympic Movement

By Jelena Boskovic, EOA editor

The relationship between Olympism and human rights is a topic that has been closely analysed by various international institutions and academics, as the core themes and fundamentals serve interchangeable purposes. The United Nations (UN), which is an organisation that was founded on the basis of establishing global peace and enforcing the respect for human rights, also finds interest in the Olympic Movement due to its commitment to the promotion of human rights. Whilst the UN aims to spread this philosophy on a global scale, how does this promotion diffuse down to national legislations and organisations, especially the ones in charge of education of youth and future society in the context of sport industry?

This topic was dissected and researched by Rebekka Lang Fuentes in her master’s thesis titled Olympism and Human Rights: A Critical Analysis Comparing Different National Olympic Education Programmes in Europe and Their Focus on the Education on Human Rights, which is a study that “aims at exploring how present this call is in contemporary European Olympic Education and what similarities and differences exist between different countries.” The European Olympic Academies (EOA) is delighted that Rebekka Lang Fuentes seeked interest in our organisation to retrieve further information about membering NOAs and of their national Olympic Education programmes. Our join effort with Lang Fuentes helped her with gathering the right contacts for her master’s research, but it also confirmed our role as a source to guide future students, academics, and institutions with the aim of promoting Olympic education.

The research question was catered towards National Olympic Education programmes from following twelve countries: Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, and Spain. Using a semi-standardised research questionnaire, eight responses were retrieved from the representatives of the selected NOAs, and four countries provided material-based information about specific Olympic Education programmes implemented in their countries. In summary, Lang Fuentes’ findings show that nearly all NOAs agreed that the concepts of human rights are an intricate part of Olympic Education, and nearly all NOAs mention this (either explicitly or implicitly) as a part of their programmes. The programmes do vary in the activities, which aim at “different human rights (rights concerning equality, non-discrimination, asylum, self-determination, life, development, freedom of speech/expression, education, health, environment, peace etc.)”  It was also found that the Human Rights Education supported and empowered youth in a way to prevent future human rights violations, which is ultimately the main goal of the Olympic education programmes. Thus, it is vital to cater the education to as many members of the younger generations to avoid future dilemmas and catastrophes, and to create a world of peace, respect and positive values are practiced and defended.

It is important to note that most of the participants in the study see Olympic Education “as the spread of Olympism which inherently carries the education of human rights.” EOA members apply the concepts stemming from Olympism into their educational programs. This is organised in many ways, with various theoretical and practical approaches, and almost always mentioning or touching on “human rights” as a direct link to Olympism. However, Lang Fuentes notes that it is extremely important to go beyond this to achieve effective results. Human rights encompass various aspects and is not just a concept that could be mentioned simply in the passing. Thus, it requires different perspectives, approaches and even criticism in order to be presented in its full form. Overall, Lang Fuentes achieves the goal of comparing different NOAs and argues that in order to “achieve a proper education on human rights, that is to say an education that not only raises awareness on human rights, but indeed empowers individuals to take action to ensure that human rights violations do not occur, a mere mentioning of human rights and/or activities connected in some way to them are not sufficient.”

The second day of the Olympism In Action forum at CECBA – Sport & Human Rights. BUENOS AIRES – ARGENTINA – 6th Oct 2018 © Greg Martin/IOC

Human rights are linked to countless social, economic, and political elements in our daily lives, and for some of us, a concept that can easily be forgotten about because it has been given to us since we were born. But for others, every waking day is a reminder of how important human rights are because of how much they lack of it. This does not necessarily mean to increase the number of programs related to human rights, but to focus on the quality of education that will equate to effective understanding and knowledge and translating of values into practice. Olympic sports having such a grand platform and popularity in society and having intricate values that the UN and International Olympic Committee (IOC) strongly support, its ability to educate youth on human rights is the perfect connection. It is not a matter of if countries will use Olympism to spread Human Rights Education, it is a matter of how.

Based on the twelve NOAs that Lang Fuentes focused her research on, three countries indicate the implementation of their Olympic education programmes as mandatory part of their national school curriculum, others did it on voluntary basis. “The present study raises two questions that remain to be answered: (1) whether the activities mentioned by the participants (both in questionnaires and additional material) are indeed translated into practise; (2) whether the activities translated into practise are effective themselves regarding Human Rights Education.”

While this study did not analyse every European country, it provided a general sample of the continent and its effective, or lack of efficient, usage of Olympism to spread the education of human rights and other values. Thus, there are some limitations to the study such as social desirability bias, interview bias, missing material/information. Although this study is not representative, it is a valuable indication that more effort and discussion need to be put in place towards using Olympic education to promote Human Rights Education. The European Olympic Academies takes Lang Fuentes’ master thesis into serious consideration and will aim at using her perspective to help NOAs improve their programmes and projects related to Olympism. We thank Rebekka Lang Fuentes for her dedication and rigorous work, as it is a stepping stone towards using the wonderful principles of sports to make this world a better place.

If you would like to get in contact with Rebekka Lang Fuentes about any further comments, questions, or concerns regarding her master thesis, please reach her at rlangfue@hotmail.com.

Rebekka Lang Fuentes
Olympism and Human Rights
A Critical Analysis Comparing Different National Olympic Education Programmes in Europe
Published in 2022 by Springer VS Wiesbaden.
ISBN: 978-3-658-37076-3

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