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ISCA highlights civil society role in feedback to WHO on “Global action plan to promote physical activity” draft


The World Health Organisation (WHO) is developing a “Global action plan to promote physical activity”, and it is expected to be adopted at the World Health Assembly in May 2018. A draft is now published and open for consultation until the end of this week.

We believe that this is a key opportunity for ISCA and our members to promote the importance of grassroots sport and physical activity for health and for wider social outcomes.

Therefore, ISCA has gathered comments from our member organisations on the draft and will in our response tomorrow highlight the key role that civil society organisations and grassroots sport can play to promote physical activity. We will also underline the relevance of various ISCA initiatives and the availability of ISCA and its member organisations to deliver on the promises of the action plan with member states and other stakeholders.

A summary of the general comments we have gathered so far is listed below:

  • We highly welcome the WHO initiative and support the focus on cross-sector collaboration and action, as well as the planned process of consultation in preparation of the plan.
  • Civil society’s role has much too little emphasis. There is a LOT on what governments should do. There is some on what secretariat should do. And then an unclear category of “international and national partners” – with rather vague roles. Civil society offers a cost-effective, localised and permanent structure to deliver citizens-oriented physical activity without political or commercial interest. And it must be harnessed and supported. Civil society should be at the forefront of the action plan – as it, and particularly grassroots sport and recreational physical activity – is all about action. We recommend this be highlighted in the structure of the document. But it is also relevant in the action parts of the plan, for instance Action 1.2, #62, where the member states’ role is recommended to be implementing community events. Knowing governments have limited reach and capacity in implementing community events, this calls for clever collaboration between relevant stakeholders with interest and capacity to run activities. We would strongly underline the important role member states should play to support civil society and grassroots sport organisations as they deliver physical activity events and grassroots sport training opportunities on a daily basis. This could be implemented throughout many of the recommendations for member states – indeed the role to support and finance research is, for comparison, mentioned in recommendation 152.
  • We support the work to link the physical activity efforts to the Sustainable Development Goals. We would argue that physical activity has a clear, standalone human rights dimension too – and that this should be highlighted because it will enhance the political discussion and give priority to physical activity. We call it: The Human Right to MOVE (see for example our upcoming MOVE Congress in Birmingham on 4-6 October (note: this is different and more specific compared to the Human Right to Health, as mentioned in point 47)).
  • Sport has great potential to promote physical activity. But we should understand that this is not primarily in professional sport, sport spectator events (or football specifically for that matter) – it is in grassroots sport and recreational physical activity. We wonder why sport’s role for “national character and value” is important in this context? And why mention UNOSDP as it is now closing? Indeed, a shift in sport policy towards participation is needed – we welcome that message entirely. As for recommendation 56, we find that using sport events to promote physical activity may be relevant and possible (although the promises of mega sport events to enhance citizen participation most often fail) but it likely is an only indirect and inefficient at best (or potentially directly counter-productive) way to promote physical activity: If the goal is to promote participation – we recommend to invest resources in that, not in spectator sport events.
  • We would recommend using even more the power of the good example and good practice in the document – and beyond. The many practitioners out there are likely more inspired by that than any theoretical-only construct or solution. ISCA has in fact been developing several such “good practice collections” for physical activity promotion, see e.g. Women in Sport and are happy to do so also going forward.
  • The role of the WHO secretariat is described in multiple instances to be developing guidelines, manuals, menus of options, case studies, etc. We would like to question, firstly, if such information and guidance is actually what is needed (given that a plethora of manuals and good practices already exists in this field, and since we are not sure that lack of such tools is actually the primary barrier) and secondly if the secretariat is foreseen to have the resources to actually deliver the many proposed items. We would instead recommend that the secretariat is recommended to liaise (more) with relevant international stakeholders, not least civil society ones, to deliver coordination, collaboration, shared use and promotion of existing resources. We at ISCA would be strongly interested in such a collaboration, while of course respecting that the main stakeholders for WHO remain member states.
  • ISCA has been delivering and developing its international physical activity campaign NowWeMOVE ( since 2012, and with substantial results. For instance, the flagship initiative MOVE Week delivered 7125 events engaging 1.8 million individual citizens in the European edition in 2015, and 7674 events in Latin America in 2016, with the 2017 edition starting on 23 September. Other initiatives of the NowWeMOVE Campaign are increasing in popularity and include No Elevators Day, European School Sport Day (with our partner Hungarian School Sport Federation), FlashMOVE, etc. ISCA is happy to take on its role as promoter of good practice, advocacy, collaboration and action, including with NowWeMOVE, as a part of the activation of the WHO Global Action Plan.

We will inform our members and followers when we receive news about the next steps.

The draft action plan and progress towards its development can be accessed here

Photo: Military Health

Posted on 21/09/2017 by


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