Unprecedented 28-stakeholder partnership kicks off Global Integration of Refugees Through Sport project



The Integration of Refugees Through Sport (IRTS) network is a growing community of stakeholders that has evolved significantly over the past decade. Although sport and play have been used for relief and inclusion of refugees for much longer, there is an emerging movement of initiatives and stakeholders who are leading the way in this field. At the start of 2024, the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) gathered 28 of these stakeholders to kick off one of the largest Erasmus+ projects ever dedicated to refugee inclusion, the Global IRTS project. 

The two-year project, ‘Global IRTS: Convening the global Integration of Refugees Through Sport Sector’, aims to address the dire challenge of including refugee children and adults into their new communities by strengthening the evidence base, raising awareness, advocating the value of IRTS and building the capacities of stakeholders working on humanitarian actions internationally and locally. 

The collaborative nature of the project will facilitate mutual learning across continents among the project’s 23 full partners, two associated partners and three supporting institutions. This partnership is unprecedented, comprising UN institutions, funding bodies, humanitarian organisations and sporting bodies. While most coordination meetings will take place online, as was the case with the kick-off meeting, two international conferences held in connection with the project, Moving People – Moving Europe in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana in November 2024 and the MOVE Congress in Denmark in 2025, will allow the network to flourish as global leaders in the field and provide valuable opportunities to learn from experiences in other parts of the world.

“We strongly believe that refugee crises all over the world bear resemblances to each other, and that there is high added value from looking at these complex challenges from a global perspective,” ISCA Secretary General Jacob Schouenborg says. “This project has the ambition – probably for the first time ever – to use the Erasmus+ Sport programme to bring together a large and strong group of partners and stakeholders from all over the world, but with a starting point in Europe, to make a significant push for the IRTS agenda in an evidence-based and cohesive manner.”

Key milestones during the project will involve establishing online IRTS communities of practice in four geographical areas (Ukraine, Venezuela, DR Congo and Syria) and three thematic areas (stress relief and MHPSS, learning through play; and host community inclusion); pilot testing of the project’s outputs in Poland, Ukraine, Denmark, Colombia and the US; and recognising outstanding initiatives at an IRTS Awards ceremony at the MOVE Congress 2025.

Global IRTS is the seventh international project being carried out under the IRTS umbrella and runs alongside other initiatives focusing on supporting Ukrainian children and their families through sport, including IRTS Nordic, Integration of Ukrainian Refugees Through Sport and We Play Together!

Find out more about these Integration of Refugees Through Sport initiatives at https://irts.isca.org/

Key project facts

Full project title: Convening the Global Integration of Refugees Through Sport Sector (Global IRTS)
Project period: January 2024-December 2025
Co-funded by: Erasmus+ Sport Cooperation Partnerships
Grant amount: €400,000

Coordinator: ISCA (International, Denmark) and sportanddev (hosted by ISCA)
International sport networks: Scort Foundation (Switzerland), Laureus Sport for Good Foundation (UK), Beyond Sport (UK), PLAY International (France), ISA (Netherlands), GAME (Denmark), Glasswing International (El Salvador), Fundación Grandes Valores, Fútbol Más Foundation (Chile), Common Goal (Germany)
UN Institutions: UNHCR, Regional Bureau of Europe; UNESCO (supporter)
Research organisations: German Sport University (Germany); Center for Advanced Migration Studies (Denmark)
Humanitarian and refugee-led organisations: Save the Children Sweden (Sweden); Terre des Hommes Romania (Romania); Support Group Network (SGN) (Sweden)
National implementation organisations: Ukraine Active (Ukraine); V4Sport Foundation (Poland); Social Innovation Sports Hub (SISH) (Portugal); Center for Healing and Justice in Sport (USA); Compensar (Colombia); DGI (Denmark)
Associated partners and other supporters: Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NIF) (Norway); Ukrainian State Scientific Institution "Institute of Education Content Modernization” (Ukraine); Sports and Society Accelerator (India); Right to Play (Canada)

This project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.