Joel Bouzou today is the president and founder of the organisation Peace and Sport. After ending his sporting career in 1992 he devoted his time to promoting sport in another way, aiming to achieve social cohesion and integration.
In 1991, he founded the association «Rassemblement par le Sport» («Together through Sport») and created the «Champions in the Street» program, which helps the social integration of young people through sport in city suburbs, using champions as role models. During 10 years of its existence, «Rassemblement par le Sport» helped to bring 20,000 young people off the streets on a long-term basis by involving them in a sporting activity. He gradually developed the ambition of creating a project based on sport that would contribute to the process of keeping peace and support development.
Launched in 2009 by Peace and Sport, the Champions of Peace Club brings together more than 100 high-level, active or retired, athletes who want to put sport and their experience to work in the service of peace. Their collective actions and their commitment contribute every day to demonstrate that sport is going way beyond athletic performance and plays a real role in benefiting society.
Peace and Sport is a neutral Monaco-based organisation created in 2007 under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II. Its objective is to bring the values of sport, including discipline and organisation and structure, to the heart of communities in crisis throughout the world, making sport a vehicle for tolerance, respect and citizenship in the service of sustainable peace.
This year the organisation will celebrate its 10 year anniversary and on this occasion, it will hold an anniversary edition of the Peace and Sport International Forum. The Forum will be organised in Monaco from 6th to 8th December. Peace and Sport International Forum is the largest global event convening the world of sport for peace. Each year, the Forum has united more than 600 major decision-makers from over 110 countries including Heads of State, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, sports governing bodies and high-level athletes, international organizations, NGOs and academia. This year Professor Muhammad Yunus, together with UEFA Champions League winner, four-time Premier League Champion and Champion for Peace Didier Drogba, will be speakers for the Peace and Sport 10-Year Gala on December the 7th. Also on this occasion, eleven awards will be granted to exceptional initiatives promoting peace through sport as part of the evening of the Peace and Sport International Forum Gala.
Joel Bouzou in this exclusive interview for HelloMonaco shared his philosophy about how sport can bring peace to the world, who will be presented with Peace and Sport Awards this year and what other projects the organisation is going to lead in next year.
HelloMonaco: Tell us how the idea of creating the Peace and Sport organization was born and how did you come to it?
Joel Bouzou: Peace and Sport is the result of a personal journey in which I realised that sport is a powerful tool for building peace and positive social change. Along the years, I have undertaken the work of promoting peace through sport to share a long-standing conviction of mine, that sport is a springboard to individual well-being, social cohesion and sustainable peace. This certainty was born of my own experience and has been confirmed over the years, initially during my time as a sportsperson and teacher, and later because of responsibilities arising out of my professional career.
HM: What did you do before Peace and Sport?
JB: My career as a sportsperson gave me the opportunity to travel in order to participate in international competitions. I have participated in four Olympic Games (Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) winning a bronze medal during the 1984 Games. I won the World Championship title in Modern Pentathlon in 1987. This experience helped to forge and assimilate the Olympic values and to become aware of the powerful role athletes can play as role models for society. I ended my sporting career in 1992. Working on different projects related to sport and promoting it constantly through different channels, I gradually developed the ambition of creating a project based on sport that would contribute to the process of keeping peace and support development. One of the example was the creation of the association «Rassemblement par le Sport» («Together through Sport»), which during 10 years of existence, helped to bring 20,000 young people off the streets on a long-term basis by involving them in a sporting activity.
HM: What social problems do you consider the most important for Peace and Sport?
JB: There is a pressing need to address the major difficulties faced by our world today, from escalating local conflict, refugee issues and the global migration crisis to the rise of extremism and community withdrawal. It is important to raise awareness about the new capacities of the global sport and peace community to make sport a tool to serve society and promote cohesion, throughout the world. Starting from the conviction that peace can be promoted through sport, Peace and Sport developed a methodology called «Sport Simple Solutions». It aims to make sport a tool that can be used in the field, available to anyone who wants to make use of its capacity to unite people and uphold the values of citizenship. For instance, during the last edition of the Friendship Games, boxing demonstrations were held on a Sport Simple boxing ring, handmade with old tires, rope and foam.
By demonstrating how a fishing net can become a volleyball net, Peace and Sport devised Sport Simple concept which, on one side can give children all over the world the opportunity to get involved in sport and get on that pathway, and on the other side can lead to a better life and to the chance of influencing the world around them in a more positive way.
HM: How is our Prince involved in your different projects?
JB: Peace and sport is under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. His Highness is the only Head of State who is also a five-time Olympian. Since the creation of Peace and Sport, he has supported the vision and different actions driven by Peace and Sport, particularly in the field.
HM: This year, Peace and Sports celebrates its 10th anniversary. Tell us about the most important achievements of the organization in this period?
JB: This year, Peace and Sport will be celebrating its tenth birthday, and to do so, we will be holding an anniversary edition of our Peace and Sport International Forum. During the decade in which we have been active, we have dedicated ourselves to promoting the peace through sport movement. We have held, annually, our #WhiteCard campaign, which this year reached more than 43 million people worldwide. Through the use of a universal #WhiteCard we have been able to turn millions of people into ambassadors for peace.
There have been some special moments of diplomacy that will live long in our memory. In 2007, Peace and Sport helped to facilitate a meeting between representatives of Israel and Palestine, which culminated in the two ambassadors shaking hands and agreeing on the power of sport for good. In 2011 in Qatar, the Peace and Sport Table Tennis Cup included men’s and women’s doubles matches with mixed-nation teams. It featured teams from North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Russia, USA, France in order to foster communication and political reconciliation at the highest level.
Elsewhere, we have helped to bring together athletes from Pakistan and India in 2011, Russia and Ukraine in 2016, and most notably, the women’s ice hockey teams of North and South Korea in 2017.
HM: What do you consider to be the most important achievement for you personally as president of the organization?
JB: One project that has sat particularly close to our hearts over the last ten years has been the Friendship Games, of which we have organized 8 editions. The Games draw a focus on the borderlands between Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the aim of bringing together youngsters from the three nations to promote inter-cultural dialogue and highlight the power sport can have in bringing conflicting nations together. As a resource centre, our ambition is to duplicate the model of the Friendship Games between other countries everywhere it is needed. Across the three days of sport, workshops and exchanges, children and athletes alike took part in 12 disciplines, all of which were designed around the concept of ‘Sport Simple Solutions’.
HM: What do you expect from the anniversary edition of your Peace and Sport International Forum, which will be held in Monaco in December?
JB: In 2017 the Forum will take delegates on a journey to discuss the latest social innovations, trends and transformative new ways that can be combined with sport to tackle today’s most pressing societal problems and future global challenges.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and social business pioneer Professor Muhammad Yunus, together with UEFA Champions League winner, four-time Premier League Champion and Champion for Peace Didier Drogba, will be speakers for the Peace and Sport 10-Year Gala on December the 7th. I warmly invite the readers of Hello Monaco to register for this exceptional evening.
HM: Who are the nominees for the Peace and Sport Awards this year?
JB: Created in 2008, the annual Peace and Sport Awards reward organizations and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to peace, dialogue and social stability in the world through sport. This year the ceremony for the Peace and Sport Awards will be held in Monaco on Thursday 7th of December, as part of the evening of the Peace and Sport International Forum Gala. On this occasion eleven awards will be granted for exceptional initiatives promoting peace through sport! Champions for Peace and the Jury will respectively be in charge of selecting the winners of the «In memory of Guo Chan: Coup de Coeur by Champions for Peace» and «Special Jury Prize» Awards.
For instance, WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations) is nominated for the Peace and Sport Awards Federation of the year category thanks to their overall policy towards Sport for development and peace and their constant engagement in involving the whole kickboxing community in this cause. FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volley-Ball) is nominated thanks to the «Volleyball your way» initiative which celebrates all forms of volleyball regardless of how or where it is played and brings a large number of people together. BWF (Badminton World Federation) is nominated thanks to the «Shuttle time connect» initiative which promotes people to people connections by directly linking many primary-school students in Asia and Australia for a cultural, educational and sporting exchange. It directly contributes to the three focus areas of contributing to health, social inclusion and peace building.
HM: What interesting projects are we to expect from Peace and Sport next year?
JB: In 2018, Peace and Sport will keep promoting activities in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan with the aim of increasing the quality and quantity of sporting activities in the camp. Sport can play a healing role for refugee children, helping to address education as well as social and developmental needs. These activities are part of the «Live Together» program in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the NGOs operating in the camp, and with the support of the Jordan Olympic Committee. The strength of the «Live Together» program is that it bridges all stakeholders together. It is the first time that various International Federations will work side by side for social development. Also, NGOs and Federations will learn from each other’s expertise, and will work together to benefit refugees.
We are particularly interested in working in topics related to refugees, children living in vulnerable areas as well as the promotion of gender equity. We will implement our «Sport Simple Solutions» methodology to all our development projects.
Photo credit to Peace and Sport