Playing for peace? The relationship of sport to peacebuilding in divided societies

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(Project) M.A.
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Author: Norman, Mark
As the use of sport in pursuit of development objectives becomes increasingly common, there is a pressing need to determine if and how sport can be productively used to promote peace in divided societies. While sport is commonly presented as an inherently positive phenomenon, a deeper examination of its role in divided societies reveals a conflicted picture of its value. While it can help to build bridges between antagonistic groups, sport can also exacerbate conflict and reinforce division. This paper recognizes the contradictory nature of sport, and examines its social impact in divided societies. It argues that spectator sport has an extremely limited peacebuilding potential and a significant capacity to reinforce division and perpetuate violence. Participatory sport, however, offers more hope as a tool for peace, and there is reason to believe that if appropriately implemented it may make a modest contribution to broader peacebuilding efforts.
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