The partnership covers several areas – from social inclusion and youth empowerment initiatives to a project aimed at creating educational guidelines for sport in non-formal settings.
The latter initiative will fill a void as those currently in leadership positions in non-formal sports settings – gym owners, trainers in sporting federations, etc – lack any educational guidelines.
Unesco and Ifma will also collaborate on projects aimed at fostering intercultural dialogue through Muaythai; promoting physical literacy; building inclusive communities through transforming impoverished areas; as well as creating a space for the historical narrative of women in Muaythai.
The Memorandum of Understanding formalizing the collaboration was signed earlier this month by Unesco Bangkok Director Dr Gwang-Jo Kim and Ifma President Dr Sakchye Tapsuwan.
Unesco Regional Advisor for Social and Human Sciences, Dr Sue Vize, who is overseeing the project, said Ifma’s outreach efforts align well with Unesco’s role as the lead United Nations agency for sport and physical education, promoting sport as a fundamental human right and a vital medium for peace and socio-economic development.
“I have been very impressed with Ifma’s efforts to promote gender equality and their global social initiatives, including Sport Is Your Gang and Frysbox,” Dr Vize said. “Having attended Ifma’s 2016 Youth World Championships in Bangkok, I am convinced of Ifma’s capacity to organise and deliver large scale programmes with a youth focus.”
Ifma President Dr Sakchye Tapsuwan agreed that the collaboration was based on a foundation of shared principles.
“Like Unesco, Muaythai has no borders. The five pillars of Muaythai are Tradition, Respect, Honour, Excellence and Fair-play and under these founding principles, Ifma strives for tolerance, inter-cultural understanding and exchange, diversity and world peace,” Dr Tapsuwan said. “We are proud to partner with Unesco to continue to use the power of sport to make a valuable social contribution to society and promote peace.”
Ifma General Secretary Stephan Fox, who is also the Vice President of SportAccord and the President of AIMS, the IOC-recognized Alliance of Independent recognized Members of Sport, spoke of the power of sport to transform the lives of individuals and entire societies.
“Sport plays an unrivalled role in human society. The enormous power of sport is one that can be used to achieve great change for good,” he said. “Being a world recognized sporting federation brings a number of responsibilities and duties, especially to the youth of the world. Everyone must have the right, the freedom and the ability to participate in physical activities. We, the Ifma family, consider it our honourable duty to help today's youth as they are our future.
“With the combined effort and the important resources Unesco provides, shared experiences towards common goals of social inclusion, gender equality and educational advancement towards youth empowerment can only benefit today’s youth and build a better tomorrow.”
Unesco's commitment to sport is enshrined in the 2015 International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport. The Charter serves as a universal reference for the ethical and quality standards of sport.
Muaythai is a particularly popular sport within the Asia-Pacific region and participation levels are growing rapidly. Built upon five founding pillars – Honour, Tradition, Respect, Excellence and Fairplay – Muaythai Amateur, under Ifma, its governing body, adheres to a strict Code of Ethics. It is Ifma's belief that Muaythai should be accessible to anyone without discrimination of any kind.