Saturday 06 April 2024, 08:00

FIFA Series™ demonstrates football’s power to unite people across the globe as UN celebrates International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

  • New FIFA Series part of a broad spectrum of tournament expansions to bring more countries together on the global stage

  • FIFA Foundation playing key role in using football to inspire and effect positive social change

  • Impactful campaigns and collaborations with UN agencies underpin FIFA’s social responsibility role

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) is being celebrated on 6 April with this year’s focus “Sport for the Promotion of Peaceful and Inclusive Societies” a theme that chimes harmoniously within a large number of FIFA initiatives and in many areas of the organisation’s work.

More international football interaction

In March 2024, FIFA launched the FIFA Series with the ultimate objective of enabling more international football interaction, making a concrete contribution to global football development. It afforded teams the chance to measure themselves against unfamiliar opponents, and opened the door for players, team officials and fans to explore other cultures and meet new people. “Central African Republic travelled all the way across the world to play in Sri Lanka. They absolutely love it. When could Central African Republic have had the possibility to play such games against countries from other continents?” said FIFA Director Member Associations Africa Gelson Fernandes of the 24-team pilot phase played out across five countries. “It’s great and this is what we are about, this is what we are at FIFA. We try to unite things, unite the world and it’s surely a great step.”

The initiative, which will be fully rolled out in March 2026, is aligned with FIFA’s commitment to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is part of a broader ethos which has led to FIFA tournaments across the range of age categories being expanded. The FIFA Women’s World Cup™, for example, was increased to 32 teams ahead of last year’s tournament in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, while FIFA World Cup 26™ will be the first played with 48 teams and across three host countries, Canada, Mexico and the United States. FIFA President Gianni Infantino told representatives of the 16 Host Cities: “We have hundreds of thousands, coming to your cities, and I can promise you they will come with a peaceful spirit, with a joyful spirit – they want to celebrate, they want to have fun. We need to welcome them in the best possible way. Because, if we welcome them and make them feel at home, then this will have an incredibly positive return in what we do.”

FIFA Foundation: mobilising the positive power of football

The work of the FIFA Foundation is also central to promoting peace and social inclusion through the beautiful game thanks to the wide-ranging initiatives it supports. The FIFA Foundation Community Programme annually welcomes grant applications from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that use football as a tool for social change and to improve the lives of underprivileged people around the world.

In 2024, the scheme will support 130 NGOs – an increase of 16 on 2023 – each with grants of up to USD 30,000 across 54 countries around the world. Those NGOs include Watoto Wasoka, who use football to engage and inspire vulnerable children living in slums in Kampala, Uganda; Atoot works with rural, marginalised girls and their communities in Nepal; Canada SCORES blends football and poetry in community projects to promote health, self-expression and academic engagement; while Breaking Grounds’ Kicken ohne Grenzen (Play Without Borders) initiative in Austria motivates young people to be active and provides a safe space to develop their potential.

The FIFA Foundation also initiates other projects that contribute to the IDSDP’s objectives. The Refugee Programme facilitates social interaction between refugees and their new community neighbours through football, while the Campus Programme offers a safe environment during school breaks for girls and boys from underprivileged backgrounds.

Campaigns that make a difference

FIFA’s social responsibility is enshrined in the Strategic Objectives for the Global Game: 2023-2027 the FIFA President first outlined at the FIFA Congress in Rwanda in March last year, and the umbrella 'Football Unites the World' campaign launched at the FIFA World Cup 2022™ is a central motor for transforming that responsibility into real-world action. To date, the Football Unites the World campaign has been delivered at every FIFA tournament since launch, promoting important social issues including inclusion, gender equality, peace, education, child protection, ending hunger and many more.

Since the campaign launch, FIFA has worked with UNESCO, UN Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UN Women, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of this global movement to drive positive change.

FIFA’s 'No Discrimination' campaign, in partnership with UN Human Rights, aims to rid the football world of discrimination in any and every form and includes a Social Media Protection Service that shields players, teams and officials from online abuse. Elsewhere, FIFA’s Be Active #BringTheMoves campaign, in partnership with WHO, champions getting children moving in response to WHO data that shows some 80% of youngsters globally are not getting enough daily exercise.

While the FIFA Forward Development Programme funds projects established by FIFA's 211 Member Associations, notably with the goal of improving football infrastructure, FIFA is also working hand-in-hand with the World Trade Organization to help bring other actors, notably the 'Cotton-4 plus' cotton-producing African nations, into the football apparel market to help them earn a share of football's estimated USD 270 billion economic impact.

“You see that as soon as a ball enters a room, everyone is smiling. Everyone has joy in his face, her face, and I think this is exactly where football has to help and wants to help,” said the FIFA President at the 7th Future Investment Initiative summit in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in October 2023. “It manages to really bring people together, to make people understand each other, and we need to really work in this direction. Because especially in our divided world, we need occasions to come together, to speak with each other, to know each other and what better than a football game?”