Press Release18 Nov 2021

53rd World Athletics Congress sets ambitious course for the sport


The 53rd World Athletics Congress

The 53rd Congress of World Athletics has concluded following the adoption of a series of important initiatives designed to accelerate the growth of the sport through the next decade.

Today the Congress approved the World Plan 2022-2030 which sets clear objectives against World Athletics’ vision for the sport. It builds on the four-year strategic plan and the four pillars of “more participation, more people, more fans, and more partners”.

Crucially, the World Plan includes a renewed Kids’ Athletics development programme which will be rolled out around the world over the coming months.

The Congress also received the first report of the Human Rights Working Group, which includes six recommendations for World Athletics to follow to ensure that human rights are protected and respected in the sport.

In his opening address, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe also announced a ground-breaking media rights agreement with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), covering Europe and Africa and running from 2024 to 2029.

In conclusion, Coe thanked the Member Federations for their attendance and engagement in the two-day virtual Congress.

“This Congress has set the direction of our sport for the next eight years, with the approval of the World Plan,” Coe said. “This is a practical and measurable guide that all of us will be able to plan and deliver against.

“We have made good progress since the last Congress in 2019, despite the pandemic, and the next four years offer unprecedented opportunities with athletics taking centre stage in the middle of each year, through a sequence of World Athletics Championships and Olympic Games, so we need to build on that momentum as a sport.”


World Plan

The World Plan 2022-2030 is the result of the largest review World Athletics has ever undertaken as a sport.

More than 85% of the 214 Member Federations completed detailed questionnaires about the state of athletics in their country and their priorities for growth. And, through the Global Conversation campaign, 25,000 individuals from 178 countries across the sport, from athletes to coaches, fans and recreational runners, gave feedback and recommendations.

The World Plan builds on governance and integrity reforms and the work of the Athletics Integrity Unit. It covers the spectrum of athletics from school and recreational athletics through to elite performers. It is ambitious, setting metrics for the 67 actions against which each federation can benchmark progress.

It addresses both elite programme priorities and the increased interest in health and fitness and recreational running around the world. It also addresses social responsibility and sustainability, linking to the health, education, diversity, gender, social and environmental agendas which are becoming increasingly important to communities and governments and which, in turn, may help unlock additional investment in the sport.

It is a roadmap to be followed by World Athletics, Area Associations, Member Federations and other stakeholders.

These objectives and actions are designed to be embedded in annual business plans across the sport. The World Athletics Council will review the plan regularly over the next eight years and report annually on its progress.


Kids’ Athletics relaunch

The refreshed Kids’ Athletics programme is designed to use the power of athletics to inspire children and young people, wherever they are, to be more active, develop their skills and confidence, and to connect with the sport for life.

Developed by coaches, teachers and young people around the globe, Kids’ Athletics is one of the biggest grassroots development programmes in the world of sport. It was created in 2002 and has been comprehensively reviewed and updated in 2021 and made available digitally to be even more inclusive, flexible, adaptable and fun for young people and practitioners.

The original programme has been implemented by more than 100 Member Federations and has reached an estimated cumulative audience of more than 13 million children and young people.

The relaunch comes at a time when experts around the world have expressed concern about rising physical inactivity in children and its impact on their future health, a situation exacerbated by the pandemic.

Globally, four out of five adolescents do not get enough physical activity, according to the World Health Organisation. A primary objective of Kids' Athletics is to help alleviate global inactivity levels and get young people active.

The programme is rooted in World Athletics’ belief that every child is born to move, to play and to explore and that every child, no matter where they are in the world, has the fundamental right to have access to sport.

The programme will be open to all children and young people around the world aged four to 14.

Practitioners include coaches, teachers, volunteers and parents who wish to involve children and young people in enjoyable game-based activities designed to teach foundation physical skills, those that are required not only for athletics but for many other sports.

Using a digital-first approach, the programme will be flexible and easily adaptable to different local environments, enabling more teachers from more parts of the world to become involved. It includes tools and teaching resources to assist those running the programme.

Additional information can be found on the Kids’ Athletics mini-site.


Adoption of Human Rights Report

Following a commitment made at the 2019 Congress in Doha, the World Athletics Council appointed an eight-member Human Rights Working Group* (HRWG), led by an independent Chair, Maria Clarke.

This working group was asked to report back to the 2021 Congress on progress in the recognition of human rights within the sport of athletics and presented its findings and recommendations which were approved by Congress on Wednesday 17 November 2021. The HRWG was supported in its analysis by experts from the Centre for Sport and Human Rights (CSHR) and Shift and the Working Group’s report includes an independent comment from them.

The HRWG concluded in its report that in order for World Athletics to achieve its vision to “create a healthier and fitter world” using the power and accessibility of athletics and its athletes, it now has the opportunity to strengthen and build on the significant work it has done to date by putting in place systems and processes that focus on preventing harm to people. The HRWG put forward the following six recommendations:

1. World Athletics should make a public commitment to respect and promote internationally recognised human rights.

2. World Athletics should have human rights expertise embedded in the organisation to support the development and implementation of all the recommendations in this report.

3. World Athletics should undertake a further assessment of the human rights risks in World Athletics’ operations and throughout the sport as a whole, to give it a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of them, so it can then assess the processes and measures it should have to prevent and mitigate against them as well as the remedies for any harm which occurs.

4. World Athletics should adopt a Human Rights Framework to be used by its decision makers to address human rights risks when making decisions.

5. World Athletics should develop a Human Rights Strategy, which sets out its priorities for human rights and the steps to implement them over a specified period. This strategy should be monitored and the progress against it, reported annually to the Member Federations.

6. The recommendations in this report should be implemented over the next three to five years taking into account the resources and capacity of World Athletics.


The HRWG Report noted that World Athletics has recognised the importance of human rights since 1962, when the World Athletics Constitution first enshrined its intolerance for discrimination in athletics. It also recognised that World Athletics has long been a leader in global sport in terms of gender equality for athletes, in both participation and prize money. In 2016, it added two athlete representatives to the ruling Council and introduced gender quotas in its Constitution to ensure equal representation of men and women on the Council by 2027.

World Athletics has also released a new Safeguarding Policy designed to prevent abuse, harassment and exploitation in its sport.

During the biennial World Athletics’ Convention, held on Tuesday (16 November), all attending Member Federations were advised of the importance of having a Safeguarding Policy and the need for each Member Federation to adopt and implement an appropriate policy by 2023.

*The members of the Human Rights Working Group are: Maria Clarke (New Zealand), Stephanie Hightower (USA), Toralf Nilsson (Sweden), Aisha Praught-Leer (Jamaica), Ximena Restrepo (Colombia), Aleck Skhosana (South Africa), Adille Sumariwalla (India) and Jinaro Kibet (Kenya). They come from every Area of World Athletics and were diverse in their backgrounds, ethnicity and gender.  Members of the HRWG hold positions with member federations, the World Athletics Athletes’ Commission, the World Athletics Governance Commission, the World Athletics Development Commission, the World Athletics Council and the World Athletics Executive Board, including its Risk Committee.