Indonesia Expat

Sporting a Change

The “sport for development” sector is comprised of initiatives that address a wide range of social issues. In Indonesia, the football community Uni Papua serves to ensure that the younger generation is well taken care of.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said that “sport has the power to change the world.” In 2001, the Nobel laureate appointed Adolf Ogi, former president of the Swiss Confederation, as his special adviser for sports, development and peace. Since then, the idea of using sports as a medium to create social change became practiced by many organizations.

The UN decided to make this even more official in August of 2013 by declaring April 6 as the International Day of Sport and Development for Peace. The day was meant to remind people that the true spirit of sport lies in its ability to foster peace and development. Therefore, it encourages them to engage in the activity and support organizations and grassroots projects that hold the same mission.

From large international companies like Nike, Barclays and Standard Chartered, to local NGOs and civil-society groups, organizations involved in the sport and development sector have started their own initiatives or funded projects that aim to respond to pressing social issues like poverty, lack of education and juvenile delinquency.

In Australia, for example, the sport for development sector relies on the nation’s traditional netball game to promote inclusivity by providing funds for the Pacific Sports Partnerships. Through the programme, the government wishes to encourage more participation in sports by women and people living with disabilities.

In South Africa, a grassroots initiative led by the National Basketball Association (NBA) provided locals with more access to the game by organizing trainings and creating a space for interactions between young locals and members of the NBA teams.

In India, UNICEF finds a solution in physical education activities to help children overcome trauma from violence, separation and displacement.

Here in the archipelago, a local football organization has paved the way for young people to become the best version of themselves. Uni Papua was initially established in 2013 to address the issues of drugs, underage drinking and promiscuity among the younger generation. Aside from youth development, the organization also came up with programmes that focus on HIV/Aids prevention, gender equality and environmental awareness.

In an interview with Indonesia Expat, Dewi Sulistyowati, a representative from Uni Papua said that football has become “an ideology” in Papua.

From the World Cup stadium to slum areas in developing nations, football is often heralded as the ultimate sport activity, frequently played by people coming from all walks of life. Its unifying nature has been recognized as a sharp tool for making a difference, and Uni Papua accordingly relies on this quality to attract more participation from the younger generation.

Uni Papua currently has around 50 branches outside Papua, including one in Bali and another in Banda Aceh, which also seek to nurture the younger generation across the archipelago. It also has branches in foreign countries like the US, Japan and Britain. The organization continues to partner with local governments, companies and also the media to run its programmes.

Despite the support that Uni Papua has gained from local and international partners, Sulistyowati thinks that Indonesia still needs to have more sport for development initiatives.

“The government only focuses on the achievements made by sport organizations and [sport in Indonesia] is still competition-oriented. They have yet to develop the broader aspects of sport itself, which are concerned with many areas like culture, tourism and most importantly social change,” Sulistyowati reveals.

Further, the challenges that are faced by sport for development organizations are often concerned with time and making sure that what they do is sustainable. When it comes down to fulfilling the sustainable development agenda, these organizations must learn to interact with external parties, such as funders and policymakers that might not always agree with the plans or programmes that they have.

At the end of the day, there should be a collective awareness and understanding that what they are doing is in fact worthwhile.

For this reason, Sulistyowati hopes that Indonesia would become more aware of the power of sport to bring people together, and soon divert its attention from the industry to the developmental side of sport.

For more information on Uni Papua please visit


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