To mark World Refugee Day on 20 June, World Rugby has become a signatory to the Joint Sport Pledge on Sport for Inclusion and Protection.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced the Joint Sport Pledge on behalf of the Sport for Refugees Coalition at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December 2023.

World Rugby joins more than 100 organisations, including over 40 National Olympic Committees and International Federations, as well as governments, refugee-led organisations, UN agencies, civil society organisations, private sector representatives and beyond in supporting the pledge.

The Joint Sport Pledge aims to ensure sport is leveraged for the benefit of displaced persons and their host communities globally. The pledge aims to mobilise resources, expertise and networks to promote access to, and opportunities through sport for, and with, displaced people and host communities, contributing to more inclusive and cohesive societies.

It explores the role sport can play in the lives of refugees, and identifies five areas where action can be taken through sport to contribute to the protection and inclusion of displaced people and host communities. By pledging, organizations commit to delivering a specific output in one or more of the five commitment areas:

  1. Promote an enabling environment, including policy, that delivers access to safe sport.
  2. Promote and provide inclusive, safe, sport and play-based initiatives.
  3. Promote and provide opportunities for enhanced skills and pathway in and through sport.
  4. Use targets communication, evidence and advocacy.
  5. Strengthen partnerships and coordination efforts.

World Rugby has committed to supporting the third and fifth pillars specifically. Through its existing sport for development partnerships, World Rugby will continue to strengthen its sport offer in displacement contexts.

In January 2024 World Rugby and ChildFund Rugby announced a multi-year extension of their transformational social impact partnership, reaffirming their commitment to use rugby as a vehicle to support diversity, inclusion and learning opportunities for children and young people across the world.


One example of this important and inspirational work taking place across the globe is in Turkey.

In February 2023, a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the southern and central regions of Türkiye, affecting millions of lives. The residents of Adıyaman faced immense challenges as they dealt with the destruction of their homes and the disruption of their daily routines. 14 million people were impacted with 1.5 million people left homeless and more than 50,00 people sadly lost their lives. Amidst this chaos, priorities like sports and education became secondary.

However, the resilience and determination of the people of Adıyaman have shone through as they embarked on the journey to rebuild their lives. To support this recovery, the Türkiye Ragbi Federasyonu (Turkey Rugby Federation) partnered with ChildFund Rugby to introduce Pass It Back in southeastern Türkiye. With guidance from the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Adıyaman was chosen as a key location for this initiative, recognising the vital role that structured, play-based learning could play in the recovery process.

Through the Pass It Back program, rugby has become a cornerstone of community recovery in Adıyaman. This initiative not only offers children a much-needed respite and a sense of normalcy through play but also fosters strong community bonds and receives significant support and visibility from both local communities and the government.

Two successful seasons have been completed, with the third season started in May. Through this project, a total of 27 coaches have been trained (11 male, 16 female), and a total of 857 players have been involved (377 male, 480 female). Impact measurements were taken across two seasons and results indicated that 89% of female players and 68% of male players showed improved social and emotional learning competencies following one season.

Local coaches aged 16-25 were trained to deliver the Pass It Back curriculum and have gone onto to develop the sport across their communities over the past 9 months. These young Coaches have also been key to unlocking huge community support for the sport with one mother commenting: "Rugby was a crucial turning point in my daughter’s life. The activities contributed to improving her physical and mental health. Thanks to Pass It Back, my daughter gained self-confidence and started socialising. The rugby programming helped my daughter to hold onto life again.” 

British Ghanian player, Zainab Alema, currently playing with Richmond Rugby recently visited Adiyaman to celebrate the great work the young Pass It Back Coaches have done in the region and support women and girls playing sport in hijab, many for the first time. Türkiye Rugby Federation won the Social Responsibility Project Award at 'Sporun Devleri Buluşuyor' for responding to the earthquake with play and opportunities like Pass It Back.

Hatice Kübra Yılmaz, International Relations Specialist at Türkiye Rugby Federation commented: "The resilience and spirit of the Adıyaman community in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake have been truly inspiring. Pass It Back has played a vital role in the recovery process, using rugby to bring structured, play-based learning to children who have endured so much. 

“This initiative has not only provided psychosocial support and a sense of normalcy for the children but has also strengthened peer networks and gained robust support from both the community and the government. The success of our first two seasons and the enthusiastic start to our third season are testaments to the programme's impact. 

“Notably, female leadership and participation is remarkable across the programme. International inspiration, Zainab Alema recently travelled to visit the work and celebrate the remarkable turnout of female players, highlighting the growing acceptance and enthusiasm for women's participation in rugby even in communities new to rugby. It is a testament to the power of sport in healing and rebuilding lives."