Children's rights
and Sport

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We protect children’s rights in, around, and through sport

Unicef has been using sport and play for more than 10 years to help change children’s lives. Our work to respect, protect and promote children’s rights focuses on three areas:

1. In sport

Children have the right to take part in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment. Unfortunately, we know that this is not always the case. Unicef UK leads the International Safeguarding Children in Sport initiative to make sport safer for every child in the world. Together, we developed the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, which are now used by more than 60 organisations across six continents.

Unicef UK has also pioneered global research on child rights challenges faced by young players on a pathway to professional football: Children before Players. We are now working directly with football authorities, to put the recommendations of the research into practice.

Watch now: Learn how UNICEF Kenya and Special Olympics Kenya are using sport to engage children who are disabled during COVID-19.

Safeguarding Guide

Learn what the International Safeguards for Children in Sport recommends for your organisation when providing sports activities to children and young people.

Read now

2. Around sport

We understand the impact that mega sporting events can have on children’s lives, both positive and negative. We support sport bodies and their event organisers to make sure they put plans in place to engage children, avoid harm and maximise the positive benefits. Our work includes:

  • Advising FIFA to make sure references to children’s rights were included in the 2026 men’s World Cup Host Country Bid Criteria.
  • Working closely with Commonwealth Sport as they aim to embed human and child rights across everything they do.

We strengthen child rights considerations in the standards used by sport event organisers so that future events are sustainable and safe for children.

3. Through sport

We understand the power sport has to change children’s lives for the better. We have worked with over 50 countries on programmes that have used sport and play to impact over 30 million children.

Teachers around the world have witnessed the transformative role of sport for students. Mr. Islam, a teacher at a school in India supported by Unicef to introduce sport, has noticed the change in behaviour of his students.

“Earlier… teachers had to visit the homes of the irregular students to bring them to school, but now, children are coming to school even before the school opens. This is a remarkable change in the behaviour of the children.” 

Through our partnership with the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games we supported sport for development programmes for more than 10 million children across every Commonwealth country.

“I eagerly wait for the game sessions and love learning through play.”
Lisha, student at a Unicef-supported school in India