Some 35 climbers from around the world on Monday began an ascent of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro to highlight the key role of sport in fostering peace and development.
The fifth annual climb organized by Nairobi-based organization the Kilimanjaro Initiative (KI) will end on 5 March.
In a powerful symbol of the unifying and stimulating role of sport in community and individual development, the group is made up of 10 urban youth from disadvantaged communities in Africa and Brazil, as well as representatives from the private sector, the United Nations and NGOs including Fight for Peace, the Monaco-based international organization Peace and Sport, and US-based Play Soccer. The countries they come from also include Antigua & Barbuda, Brazil, Burundi, Eritrea, France, Grenada, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Tanzania, the Britain and the United States.
In a message of goodwill to the climbers, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said: “Sport can contribute to the development of communities, build bridges, and tap the full potential of young women and men. This kind of action and spirit exemplifies the type of discussions that will take place at the 5th World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro on 22 to 26 March.”
Since 2006, the Kilimanjaro Initiative has brought more than 100 youth, athletes, musicians and representatives of the private and public sector to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The annual ascent to the highest peak in Africa is organized each year around a different theme. In 2007, the objective was to stress the need for youth empowerment and employment; in 2008, to foster peace in Kenya, which was wracked by the post-election violence; and in 2009, the goal was to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change in relation to urban safety.
This goal of the 2010 climb is to highlight the key role of sport as a tool for development
Mr. Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, said: “The annual ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro organized by the Kilimanjaro Initiative provides a unique opportunity for interaction by underprivileged youth with international representatives, providing life-time contacts and an unforgettable experience, giving them a head start for their future.”
The Initiative was founded in 2005 by Mr. Tim Challen, a Geneva-based staff member of the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU), after he was shot during an armed robbery at his apartment in Nairobi. Following extensive surgery and a long period of recovery, Mr. Challen returned to East Africa with a desire to help create a safer and better environment for urban youth and to provide them with opportunities to bring about constructive change in their communities.