Glossary Hero

A Call to harmonise language across Sport & Human Rights

As diverse stakeholders in sport come together to realise a vision of responsible sport, the ability to communicate clearly with one another is imperative. Whether we come from the world of sport, the world of human rights or elsewhere, we bring with us our own jargon and technical language, which can stand in the way of common understanding and impede progress. Amidst this, many stakeholders in the sport and human rights movement have asked for guidance on the terminology and language used in this area to ensure that our communication is responsible, inclusive, respectful and ethical. To support this, we have launched a process aimed at bringing greater clarity and coherence to the language we employ to discuss and advance human-centric sport.

Language plays a pivotal role in conveying information, as well as in reflecting and shaping social reality. Its usage determines if it reinforces or helps to deconstruct systems of power. In parallel, language describes real world entities, systems and structures. Whether these terms originate from sport or from human rights, a clear understanding of what each term is seeking to convey also underpins our ability to make sense of the status quo and effect positive change or social transformation. In recognition of the power of language, responding to the need identified by the stakeholders, and in line with our strategy, Convergence 2025, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights has initiated a process to co-create and develop a manual for harmonising responsible communication in the sports ecosystem. By helping to translate sport terminology for those who specialise in human rights, and conversely by applying a human rights lens to language and terminology used in sport and society more broadly, we hope that stakeholders will be better equipped to ensure their interactions positively impact individuals and communities, emphasising the centrality of people and their rights in sport.

In 2022, we launched an open consultation as the first step of an ongoing process to seek greater convergence in how language is used across the sport and human rights movement. The consultation process is ongoing, because language itself is dynamic and its usage and meaning are constantly evolving. This process aims to build a shared understanding and common point of reference for communication across the sports ecosystem in all its diversity. In particular, the objective is to encourage a clear, appropriate and respectful use of terminology by actors across sport, while prompting reflection on the language and terminology we currently use within our movement and how this can be improved or strengthened. Over the coming years, we will continue to consult on various terms, asking for input from experts and people with relevant lived-experience on how to define each term and, crucially, also how to use the terms respectfully. 

This can only be the first step. The sport and human rights movement is global in nature. However, the current language and terminology is Anglo-centric and more specifically is derived from a primarily European-North American cultural and political context. We acknowledge that whilst we are starting this process in English, if the sport and human rights movement is to continue to grow and reflect the truly global phenomenon it is, this consultation must also extend to other languages. It is also necessary to recognise that national, regional or cultural variations may affect how terms are translated, understood and used in other languages. Therefore, over time, we will endeavour to both consult on contextual variations in language usage and appropriate translations into other official UN languages.

This first iteration of the Glossary includes 50 terms that are frequently and widely used across the ecosystem. Terms are released for consultation in batches, with those terms used most commonly being released first. Of the 50 terms released in this edition:

  1. Ten terms have already been consulted upon, and we thank those who have already given their input (noting we remain open to new feedback);  

  2. Fifteen terms are now open for consultation and feedback for the first time; and

  3. A further twenty-five terms are included as provisional definitions to give an indication of what we have in the pipeline. 

All definitions use as their starting point recognised and credible official sources wherever possible. These include official UN instruments and authoritative, widely recognised, documents found within sport, which are supplemented by insights from our team and members of our Advisory Council and Engaged Organisations based on collective expertise and work within and across the sports ecosystem. The provisional definitions are offered to meet the demand for guidance on a wider range of terms. These are based on desk research from a more limited number of sources. We will open them for consultation after further research and drafting. 

Each term comes with a short definition and fuller explanation, as well as alternative or related terms and guidance for respectful usage where that is applicable. Throughout, we have aimed to use language that is as accessible as possible to the reader. As such we have strived for accuracy while minimising any descriptions that are so technical that they would not make sense to educated users coming to them fresh from different disciplines or walks of life.

The Glossary as a whole is published as a living document, meaning we remain open to further feedback and to making possible amendments as language, understanding and usage evolves. The Centre commits to being responsive as the field develops and consensus on language solidifies or matures. Our dedication is rooted in the belief that to remain relevant and valuable, the Glossary must reflect the latest advances, insights, and best practices across the global sports ecosystem.

To uphold this commitment, we pledge:

  • Regular Review and Assessment: Conduct periodic reviews of the Glossary, at least annually, to evaluate its content for accuracy, relevance, and alignment with our current goals and the evolving ecosystem landscape.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Engage diverse individual and institutional stakeholders in the review process to gather a broad spectrum of insights and feedback, ensuring the document benefits from varied perspectives and expertise.
  • Incorporate Emerging Trends and Technologies: Stay informed about the latest trends, technologies, and methodologies in our field, and proactively incorporate such advancements in the Glossary to ensure it remains at the forefront of sport and human rights practice.
  • Transparent Updates: To foster trust and understanding among all stakeholders, we will communicate updates through specific channels and maintain transparency about any changes made to the Glossary, including the rationale behind updates.
  • Accessibility and Inclusivity: We will ensure that the Glossary is accessible to all intended users, considering various needs and preferences. We commit to making the document available in multiple formats [if applicable] and considering inclusivity in its language and presentation.
  • Training and Education: We will provide the necessary training and resources to our team and stakeholders so that they can understand and effectively utilise the updated document, ensuring its maximum impact and utility.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Establish an open and easily accessible feedback channel, allowing stakeholders to contribute suggestions and concerns about the document at any time.

By making this commitment, we affirm our dedication to the excellence of the Glossary and the principles of adaptability, inclusivity, and collaboration. We believe that through continuous improvement and engagement, the Glossary will be a dynamic tool supporting our mission and enhancing our collective effectiveness across the global sport ecosystem.

In the meantime, we welcome any feedback you may have, as well as requests for which terms you would like us to prioritise next for consultation. We hope that these terminologies and pledges accompanying them, based on the collective knowledge and experience of stakeholders in the sport and human rights movement, will enhance usage of responsible language and further promote human rights and respect for people.

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