In line with the Erasmus+ objectives, this project aims at takling cross-border threats to the integrity of sport, such as doping, march-fixing and violence, as well as all kinds of intolenrance and discrimination.
Platform for the Protection of Children in Sport (i-Protect)
January 2018 – June 2020
More specifictly, the objective of this I-Protect in Sport Project, presented as part of the Erasmus+ Call for Proposals 2017 is:
The development of a European online Platform for the Protection of Children in Sport (i-Protect) targeted at grassroots organizations and with the participation of the minor athletes, their families, coaches and sport managers. The successful completion of the platform program will grant the participating organizations with a government-supported and government-approved “i-Protect Seal” in sport.
The platform will serve as a tool for the empowerment of children and the prevention of violence, negligence, harassment and abuse in the context of physical activities and sport. It is a unique opportunity to put into practice the results of the research and recommendations made on the subject within the EU framework in recent years. Addressing and involving the final users directly, in their own terms, with their own interactive tools and in a language that they can understand will help sports organizations minimize the risk of children suffering violence and abuse in the context of sport.
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children are entitled to being protected from any harm. A society whose attitudes or traditions foster any type of abuse cannot offer an environment that is sufficiently safe to guarantee these rights.
The protection of minors is highlighted in the EU Work Plan for Sport 2014-17.
“THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE MEMBER STATES, AGREE that the following themes and key topics should be given priority by Member States and the Commission for the period covered by the present Work Plan. They could be complemented by each Presidency in the light of any possible new developments:
1) Integrity of sport, in particular anti-doping, the fight against match-fixing, protection of minors, good governance and gender equality”. Resolution of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 21 May 2014 on the European Union Work Plan for Sport (2014-2017)
For UNICEF, the protection of children against violence, exploitation and abuse is an absolute priority. Government and supra-government institutions must commit to fostering the effective protection of children, which is the key element in creating safe environments. In this regard, legal frameworks are of special importance, as well as other complementary public policies that favor the empowerment of children, while offering support tools and increasing their ability to understand and react. UNICEF states that
“boys and girls will be less exposed to suffering abuse if they are aware of their rights to not being exploited or if they understand the means available to protect them”.
The European Commission has recently published a paper prepared by an Expert Group on Good Governance entitled “Recommendations on the protection of young athletes and safeguarding children’s rights in sport”7. This document states in its introduction:
“In accordance with the mandate deriving from the Council Resolution on the second European Work Plan for Sport (2014-2017), the protection and safeguarding of minors in sport was one of the five issues identified as priorities in terms of sport integrity by Member States and the European Commission”
“Positive effects of sport for children are well known and already underlined at international, EU and national level. Through sport children can learn important values as tolerance or fair-play. They can also develop motor skills and a healthy way of life. All forms of sport can contribute to their social inclusion, education and personal or social development. Because of these positive effects among others, sport is recognised by Member States and EU as an important policy priority. And for the vast majority of children, sport is therefore a positive experience.
But for other children, the experience may be affected by negative experiences. Like in any other arenas involving a close personal relationship and/or authority relationship toward children, a sporting environment may also sometimes expose minors to particular risks. Studies and high-profile cases showed that minors can be subject to various forms of violence in sport that can lead to lifelong consequences on their emotional, physical and psychological health, personal development, social and family life, and subsequently impact their participation in sport and life.
Generally recognized as a vulnerable population, minors need special consideration and protection. However, the sport sector is an example (among others) where safeguarding minor's rights can be said to have been given insufficient attention in the past. Many structures or entities in the EU “working” close to minors have realized they have a particular responsibility towards protecting minors against any form of violence and to keep paying attention on this concern, but there is still much to be done.” 2016 EC - Expert Group on Good Governance - Recommendations on the protection of young athletes and safeguarding children's rights in sport – Final Document – July 2016
There are several supra-governmental initiatives in place to protect children; among them:
- The Resolution of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 21 May 2014 on the European Union Work Plan for Sport (2014-2017)
- The International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sports of UNESCO (1978), the last review of which is dated November 2015
- Recommendation 92 of the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on the Revised Code of Sports Ethics. Committee of Ministers of 24 September 1992 encouraging Fair Play in Sport.
- The International Olympic Committee, Executive Commission, Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse dated February 2007
- The 2009 Code of Sport Ethics of UNESCO. “Fair play - the winning way” .
- The European Commission’s Study on Gender-Based Violence in Sport. Brussels, 2016.
- The 2016 EC - Expert Group on Good Governance - Recommendations on the protection of young athletes and safeguarding children's rights in sport – Final Document – July 2016.
Transferring information and prevention codes of ethics to those spheres where abuse may take place can help on prevention, thus eliminating the need to turn to legal and criminal tools. As Wulcyn and cols.8 express in their Work Document for UNICEF: Wulczyn, F; Daro, D.; Fluke, J.; Feldman, S.; Glodek, C.; Lifanda, K. “Adapting a Systems Approach to Child Protection: Key Concepts and Considerations”. UNICEF, New York 2010,
“family plays an integral role in the protection of children, especially at an early age.”
In the context of the European Union, the 2016 reference study by the European Commission regarding the problem of Gender Violence in Sport contains an updated chapter on Child Abuse, with information regarding the legal measures taken in the different Member States.
“Special attention was also devoted to children and youth, because young athletes (girls and boys) have specific rights and needs and may well be victims of gender-based violence.” European Commission. Study on Gender-Based Violence in Sport. Brussels, 2016
For this reason, we must consider that, despite the prevention and legal measures in place at national level and even at international level (United Nations. Convention on the Rights of the Child (November 1989), Conference of The Hague on International Private Law. Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (July 2010), Conference of The Hague on International Private Law. Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption (May 1993) and Council of Europe. Convention regarding the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (October 2007) and Council of Europe. Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights (November 2014), sport is still an area where children face risk factors associated to mistreatment and abuse and where complementary measures may have a positive impact.