43rd edition of the United Nations Inter- Agency Games: Reviving the Olympic values and strengthening team building and spirit

The city of Malaga (Spain) hosted this year, from 11th to 15th May, the 43rd edition of the UN Inter-Agency Games, in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. The event was organized by UNWTO, the World Tourism Organization, the United Nations specialized agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, based in Madrid, Spain.

The United Nations Inter-Agency Games (UNIAG) gathered around 1,200 United Nations staff members coming from all around to globe to show their pride and commitment to their missions and assignments, in the spirit of sport, social connections and team spirit.

The purpose of the Inter-Agency Games (IAG), according to Article 1 of the General and Discipline Rules of the UN Inter-Agency Games, is "to enable current and retired members of the agencies and organizations of the United Nations system and other eligible organizations to get to know each other through sports and other recreational activities and thereby to improve mutual understanding and work relations". As a matter of fact, many departments of Human Resources and the various staff bodies accept that the participation in social and sporting activities contributes to the well-being of staff as well as to both the organization and staff relations. Sport and other recreational activities help develop team-building and drive motivation, attributes which are conducive to forming future leaders who will be better able to fulfill the urgent jobs in times of stress.

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Photo Credit: UN IAG 2016

The history of the UN Inter-Agency Games traces back to 1968, when the "Commission des Sports de l'Association du Personnel de l'UNESCO" organized an omnisports meeting in Paris against a team from UN Geneva. Both organizations continued organizing omnisports meetings in 1969 and 1970. In 1971, UN Geneva organized the first multi-institutional sports competition in Champéry, Switzerland. Ten organizations of the UN System with offices in Europe participated. The original Games included the following disciplines: chess, football, table tennis, tennis and men's volleyball. Thus the UN Inter-Agency Games were initiated and the principle of alternating the venue and the responsibility for the organization of the Games among the UN organizations in Geneva, Rome, Vienna and Paris were adopted. General Rules for the Games were adopted and a control commission established to assure their adherence.

Over the years, the Games have developed from 5 disciplines and some 350 participants to 13 disciplines and more than 1000 participants.

This year in Malaga, 14 disciplines were featured, with approximately 53 UN agencies, funds, programmes and missions present. The sports disciplines were Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volley, Chess, Cricket, Darts, Football, Golf, Petanque, Table Tennis, Tennis, Swimming, and Volleyball. The event saw passionate UN staff members compete in a fair and friendly manner between staff of other UN system offices, each one working for different mandates from eradicating poverty and hunger in the world; to promoting cultural diversity; access to information and freedom of expression, to ensuring a greener and safer planet, to saving human lives in developing countries through health, family planning and sexual and reproductive health education and also, gender equality policies and practices, among others. Many different mandates, but united as a "UN Family" across the system, working to highlight and strengthen peace, security, climate change, sustainable development and human rights in the world.

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Photo credit: UN IAG 2016

"The UN Inter-Agency Games is a time of the year where staff members of the UN system travel from all around the world to reunite and reconnect, to compete in various disciplines or support fellow friends and colleagues and to share their stories and experiences. In the spirit of encouraging team-building and socialization, the Games can also provide an opportunity to re-ignite interest or engagement in social and humanitarian causes, while maintaining the commitment to the issues and challenges of the XXI century, that we regularly face in our assignments, especially in developing countries and in countries with conflicts or instability" comments Samiti Siv, Chairperson of the Organizing Committee of this year's Games and Programme Officer at UNWTO, the World Tourism Organization.

"We are often connected via e-email, and we deliver our job by teaming up in working groups on specific development and cooperation issues," states Ayurzana, working for FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization based in Rome, Italy "so sometimes it is hard to meet a person , shake hands and see our faces," she continues "driven by telephones and e-mails, I think it is very nice to meet in person and play together in a fun and cheerful environment and spirit".

"This is my 10th year participating in the UN inter-Agency Games, in the UNESCO Men football team" says Paulo, working for UNESCO, the United Nations Culture, Education and Scientific Organization in Brasilia, Brazil "these are powerful days to meet and greet your colleagues from all around the globe, share the mission and mandate that unite us and keep working for the good of humanity and for the socio-economic development of countries, while kicking a ball and having a chat on the playing field".

"Our assignments in developing countries often put us on physical and emotional challenges, especially in terms of protection and personal safety" adds Gavin from India, working for UNMONUSCO, the United Nations Stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo "this is why I decided to join for the first year the Tennis team in Malaga, to see people, to socialize and to feel united in our joint missions. Also if we do not see each other and sometimes life conditions can put us down, I feel blessed and empowered by feeling that we are not alone in this life missions".

The UN Inter-Agency Games should be considered as an excellent example or best practice for building staff well-being and personal and professional development, and serve as a reference point for improving job productivity and efficiency in delivering results. The Games can also show the world a new way of working, driven by humanity, compassion, empathy, courage, strength and mutual understanding. Such a world is possible, and it starts with each one of us, by bringing human beings to rise up and shine, together.

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Photo Credit: UN IAG 2016

For more information about the UN Inter-Agency Games and photos, check the website here