UN Inter-Agency Games: Sport and Leisure
The UN Inter-Agency Games (UNIAG) was established to enable serving staff and retired members of agencies and organisations of the United Nations system and other eligible organisations to get to know each other through sport and recreational activities with the aim of improving mutual understanding and work relations. UNIAG events are supported by family and friends many of whom accompany the participants.
In 1968 the “Commission des Sports de l’Association du Personnel UNESCO” organised an omnisports meeting in Paris against a team from UN Geneva. Both organisations continued organising meetings in 1969 and 1970. In 1971 the UN Geneva organised the first multi-institutional sports competition in Champéry, Switzerland. Ten organisations of the UN System with offices in Europe participated. The Games included the disciplines of chess, football, table tennis, tennis and men’s volley ball. Thus the United Nations Inter-Agency Games (UNIAG) was initiated and the principle of alternating the venue and responsibility for their organisation spread among the UN organisations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna and Paris.
General Rules were adopted and the Games have expanded from the five disciplines to a long list of sport and recreational activities that are decided by a UNIAG Organising Committee. The Geneva based UN organisations established the “Inter-Organizational Sports Commission (IOSC)” which coordinates the participation of their staff members in the Games and often assists the Host organisation in organising the Games when it is Geneva’s turn with the four year cycle. Organisations try to facilitate the release of staff for the UNIAG.
Sport and Leisure
Now in its fortieth year, the UNIAG was organised by Geneva from 24 to 28 April 2013 at Marina d’Or, Oropesa de Mar, in the Castellon region of Spain. The Games serve to bring worldwide participants of the UN family together. They include athletics, badminton, basketball, bridge, chess, darts, football, golf, pétanque, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, mountain bike, swimming together with cricket and mixed volleyball which were added in 2013 to the long list of sport and leisure activities.
It is worth recalling the opening address delivered at the UNIAG by the Director-General of UNIDO at the twentieth Games held in 1991 in Baden, Austria.
“I believe the Games provide more than a pleasurable diversion from the daily routine, more than an opportunity for staff to pit their respective skills against those of their colleagues, and more than simply a display of physical or intellectual prowess, impressive as that may be. Bringing together both participants and supporters from numerous agencies, the Games present a unique reminder to us that we are all part of the United Nations family. Against a current background of world-wide turmoil, our horizons must stretch beyond the four walls of our own organisations. The co-operation, solidarity, teamwork and striving for excellence which are hallmarks of true sportsmen (and women) must also be apparent in our daily lives.”
Following the Final Declaration from the 7th World Conference on Sport and Environment (25-27 October 2007 Beijing, China), UNESCO became the lead UN agency to carry it forward. As organisers of the Games in 2008, they aimed to help raise awareness and educate members and participants in UNIAG of the need to facilitate a healthy environment and sustainable development in our connected and dependent world.
Ita Marguet, July 2013
Note: Acknowledgement is given to UNIAG and related sources in preparing this text.