The United Nations has praised Qatar and its support for the launch of a global programme to secure major sporting events and to harness sport as a tool to combat terrorism.

The 'Global Programme on Security of Major Sporting Events and Promotion of Sport and its Values as a Tool to Prevent Violent Extremism' was launched on Monday at the United Nations headquarters in New York with the support Qatar, China and South Korea.

In a speech during the first session of the meeting of the programme, UN Undersecretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov, said: "Let me start by thanking the generous support to this UNOCT (UN Office of Counter-Terrorism) initiative of the government of the State of Qatar - who also gave us the idea to develop this global programme and helped us to launch it."

He added that the support extended by Qatar along with China and South Korea constitutes a global dimension to the programme on the security of major sporting events and acquires special importance.

UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations, Miguel Angel Moratinos, also praised Qatar, which put sport at the forefront of its agenda from the security perspective as a soft force to prevent violent extremism.

Moratinos said that when he was in Qatar seven years ago he witnessed that Qatar put education, sports and youth as priorities and made them pillars and goals within its development path.

"Qatar has succeeded in convincing us that sport should have a place in foreign policy," Moratinos said.

Director of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute Research, Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, expressed her deep appreciation for the generous support provided by Qatar to ensure the successful launch of this project.

Qatar's Permanent Representative to the United Nations HE Ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani said her country was among the first supporters of the global programme to secure major sporting events and harness sports as a tool to combat terrorism.

She said Qatar has prioritised the support of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism and the international strategy to combat violent extremism in support of projects that focus on victims of terrorism, youth and sports security, while referring to the agreement signed by Qatar with UNOCT to establish a centre in Doha to study behavioural information and the causes that lead to violent extremism.

Sheikha Alya referred to Qatar's annual donation of $1mn to the UNOCT as well as Qatar's hosting of the International Centre for Sport Security.

She highlighted the preparations being made by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the organising committee for the World Cup Qatar 2022, through the formation of the security committee tasked with the protection of sport facilities.

The Ambassador said Qatar presents an ideal model of protecting sports facilities and events in the light of terrorist threats targeting major sporting events, stressing that Qatar is among the 20 most secure countries in the world.

The global programme was launched during the opening session of a meeting organised by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism in partnership with the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, the UN Alliance of Civilisations, the International Centre for Sport Security and the Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.

This new programme is aimed at developing innovative policies and practices to strengthen the protection of major sporting events through enhanced international co-operation, public-private partnerships and sustainable security approaches, while promoting the values of sport as a powerful means to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism.

Voronkov opened the session, stressing that sport is a fundamental and true human value, and a strong vaccine against any kind of criminal disease.

"Over the past decade, terrorists have conducted a number of deadly attacks against soft targets and crowded places resulting in casualties, panic, and severe damage to the way of life and the economy of affected countries.

"Let us recall the attacks against the 1972 and 1996 Olympics, and the bombings during the 2008 Sri Lanka and 2013 Boston marathons."

Voronkov added that sport has always played a significant role in the dissemination of positive values across civilisations and cultures.

"Protecting major sporting events entails multi-level co-operation and co-ordination, as well as complex security and policing arrangements - including securing locations; cybersecurity; and crisis planning and management; strategic communication, etc," he said.

Moratinos welcomed the programme, saying its launch was a successful model of a unified approach strategy for the United Nations in meeting the global need to protect major sporting events.

Sports events offer benefits to the international community by developing advanced policies and practices to enhance their security, Moratinos said, and called for the provision of initiatives and activities that promote sport as a tool for social inclusion and values inherent in sport such as respect for others, discipline, leadership and flexibility.

In a recorded video, HE the Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Hassan al-Thawadi praised the programme.

He stressed the importance of international efforts to make sport a tool to combat violent extremism and terrorism.

He also reviewed the steps taken by the Supreme Committee with all parties concerned to provide protection, security and safety for the World Cup Qatar 2022.