The Oceania Football Confederation was last month admitted into the UN’s Football for the Goals, a programme launched by the United Nations to use football as a tool to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It’s been well established that sport can be an important enabler for achieving the SDGs. But OFC’s Social Responsibility Manager Michael Armstrong says it takes intentional action to reach those goals.

“We’ll go into detail about how our sport can contribute to the goals and how our Member Associations and others can use football as a tool,” Armstrong said.

OFC is choosing one SDG each month to highlight and explore the intricacies of how we can intentionally use football to address these important development aspects.

“OFC and its Member Associations have used programmes like the Just Play programme for over 10 years to address some of the challenges that our communities face across the Pacific. Those programmes are intentionally designed to address these specific challenges. I think what we face collectively is a level of understanding about how football can contribute to different development outcomes, and we can use all aspects of football intentionally to address this.”

“So, we’re hoping that through getting out further resources, getting out our new strategy on the power of football, can help our members to intentionally use football to address some of these challenges.”

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, each with a subset of targets and indicators for measuring how society is progressing towards the development outcomes needed for a prosperous and sustainable world.

“There’s been an awful lot of research across the sports sector over the last seven, eight years of the SDGs and the preceding 10 years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have looked at which of those goals sport contributes to as a priority. Through that research, 10 of them really stand out as a priority. We try to focus on how our sector can contribute to those goals, rather than potentially chasing less impactful areas of impact,” Armstrong said.

OFC has made the following goals a priority:

SDG 3: How sport contributes to health and well-being and particularly how it’s addressing mental health challenges.

“Which we are seeing a massive increase in since COVID, and addressing non-communicable diseases, which is the largest cause of mortality in our region.”

SDG 4: Quality education with sport playing a key role in educational outcomes and physical education.

SDG 5: Gender equality, which has been a prime focus for OFC with our new strategies, a women’s football strategy and the gender equality playbook that came late last year.

SDG 6: Water, sanitation and hygiene and giving proper practices to address some of those diseases.

SDG 8: Employment and economic development.

SDG 10: Reducing inequalities and ensuring there is equal access for everyone to play sport.

SDG 12: Sustainable production and consumption.

SDG 13: Climate action. “Both SDG 12 and SDG 13 are key for us as we see climate change as one of the key challenges facing our region.”

SDG 16: Non-violence or reducing crime and violence. “For sport, this often relates to ensuring people are safe in sport and there’s not child abuse occurring or violence occurring on the sports pitch. It also relates to keeping crime out of sport in terms of management in relation and good governance.”

SDG 17: Creating good partnerships. “It’s an area where sport excels because we can’t deliver sport without having government at the table with civil society, with the private sector. Those partnerships form the foundation for the activity we deliver. If we take Just Play for example, it’s delivered in partnership with the New Zealand and Australian Governments, the UAE foundation for children as well as members of the UN sector including UN Women and UNICEF.” Armstrong said.