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H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), delivered a keynote speech during the opening of the 2018 Social Forum of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council held in Geneva.

The annual forum offers a space for open and interactive dialogue between civil society entities, representatives of member states and intergovernmental organisations, on a theme chosen by the Human Rights Council each year.

This year's edition, taking place until 3 October, is being held under the theme of: "The Possibilities of Using Sport and the Olympic Ideal to Promote Human Rights For All and To Strengthen Universal Respect For Them".

During his remarks, Al Thawadi highlighted the ability of sport, and football in particular, to bring people together.

He said: "Football's status as the world's universal language manifests every four years during the World Cup. In 2018, 3.4 billion people – over half of the world's population – tuned in to the FIFA World Cup. No other event on this planet gathers the collective attention of humanity the way the World Cup does. A platform with such power must be harnessed and utilised with both ambition and responsibility – on local, regional and international levels. It must be used to improve lives and create a better future for a region of the world that is in desperate need for sparks of optimism. I'm proud to say that's what we are doing ahead of 2022."

Al Thawadi then went on to explain how the SC's various legacy programmes, including Challenge 22, Generation Amazing, Josoor Institute and the Accessibility Forum, are helping to facilitate social and economic development in the region, and providing youth with the tools and knowledge necessary for building a better future.

Speaking about other areas in which the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ has served as a catalyst for change, Al Thawadi also explained how the tournament has helped drive forward the reforms required to improve workers' welfare conditions in Qatar and ensure the health, safety, security and dignity of the workers contributing towards the development of the nation.

Al Thawadi also expressed his opinion that the most profound legacy of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ will be "the breaking down of stereotypes and people coming together", noting the tournament's unique status as one of the few remaining unifying platforms around the world at a time when global dialogue trends are emphasising division and dispute.

He added: "People from all corners of the world will visit Qatar in 2022, and billions will be watching on screens. For Qatar, the Middle East, and for the international community, the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is a precious opportunity to celebrate our common humanity and advance progress for human rights in our region."

Al Thawadi concluded his speech by noting the importance of recognising the potential of sport and mega-events as vital steps for the UN in its mission towards attaining its Sustainable Development Goals. He suggested sport be used as a powerful tool in breaking social, cultural and economic barriers in order to achieve these goals.

Prior to the opening, Al Thawadi met with Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to discuss areas of common interest and means of further enhancing collaboration between the SC and the UN Human Rights Council.

Al Thawadi's participation in the event builds on previous SC engagements and collaboration with the UN over the past year. These include participation in an event organised in February 2018 by the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN in Geneva under the title of "Hosting Mega Sport Events: Strengthening the Respect for Human Rights", the UN Office for Drugs and Crime's special event entitled "Crime Prevention and Sustainable Development Through Sports", held in April 2018, and the 38th Session of the UN Human Rights Council held in June 2018.