A forum for hope
© Getty Images

From landmines in Cambodia to homelessness in England and ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, June's inaugural Football for Hope Forum brought together a diverse field of organisations, all of whom are using football as a tool for social change.

The FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 saw some of the world's top football talents descend upon South Africa. But the competition also helped gather together some of the key players in the Football for Hope movement to use the power of football to change the world off the pitch.

Over 100 global experts in the field of social development through football met at the inaugural Football for Hope Forum in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa between 23 and 25 June to interact, learn and share their experiences over an extensive three-day programme of workshops and seminars.

The importance of the forum was also reflected in its high-calibre guest list, with the event being officially opened by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter alongside Dr Irvin Khoza, Chairman of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, Willi Lemke, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace, and former South African national team captain Lucas Radebe.

"I am proud to have joined such a distinguished group of international experts at the Football for Hope Forum," said Radebe. "Football is much more than just a game here in Africa; when it is combined with health and education it can make the difference in a child's future. What we learned at the forum will help organisations that work every day to improve social issues here in Africa and around the world."

Global corporations and development institutions also participated in the various workshops and panel discussions to find common ground and new ideas for the most effective way to drive social development. The topics discussed ranged from football's contribution to sustainable HIV/AIDS prevention and the empowerment of girls and young women to achieve their goals through football to practical applications of peace-building through football and many others.

This forum is fantastic. I met so many interesting people who gave me confidence that I am not alone with the issues my organisation faces every day.
Willi Lemke, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace.

According to Lemke, the connection of like-minded organisations and people who are directly involved "on the ground" in development projects made the forum almost unique in the world of sports.

"It is different to most other meetings I have attended because the people have a real interest in the topic and are eager to use this opportunity for their own development and for the benefit of their organisation. It is fantastic to see real discussions between passionate people who contribute to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals in Africa and beyond," said the UN Adviser, whose mandate is to promote sport as an instrument for development and peace both within the United Nations system and externally, and to encourage the establishment of partnerships in this area.

 "This forum is fantastic. I met so many interesting people who gave me confidence that I am not alone with the issues my organisation faces every day. Where else would I get the chance to meet the United Nations and the FIFA President from my small corner of Kenya? We have all been brought together by the Football for Hope Forum," said a visibly touched Margaret Belawa from Moving the Goalposts, an organisation aimed at empowering girls in Kilifi, Kenya.

A field visit to the community of Finetown enabled the participants to see the "Play Soccer" programme in action, where 140 children of various age groups play football and receive basic information about HIV/AIDS prevention and other life skills at the same time.

Perhaps just as important for the long-term success of the Football for Hope movement was the way in which the June forum helped to cement the relationship between FIFA, streetfootballworld and the various projects which have joined the movement over the last years.

"The first major face-to-face contact of the various stakeholders in the world of development through football has strengthened the trust and confidence and put in place a solid basis for the future work of the Football for Hope movement," said Jürgen Griesbeck, Managing Director of streetfootballworld.

Federico Addiechi, FIFA's Head of CSR, added: "This Football for Hope Forum distinguished itself from any other conference I have been to before through the enormous energy, the commitment and the passion of the participants."

Many participants expressed their satisfaction at seeing FIFA not only organise its competitions at the highest professional level, but also follow its mission to "build a better future" in a professional manner and with passion, led by the personal commitment of the FIFA President.

"We have prepared a solid basis for the work ahead of us and, having always referred to Football for Hope as a movement, people can now see that we are indeed moving," concluded Addiechi.