International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons has called on institutions around the world to do more to empower and respect the human rights of persons with a disability.
Speaking at the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Council Social Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Parsons highlighted how sport is one of the best vehicles for promoting human rights.
Photo: IPC President Andrew Parsons presents Iranian star Sitting Volleyball player Morteza Mehrzadselakjani with his gold medal at this year’s World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships. Story courtesy of Paralympic.org
“You really do have to ask, is it the impairment that is a making a person disabled or is it society? The practice of sport is itself a human right and it is sport that has a unique unifying power to attract and inspire, bringing together and empowering people of all backgrounds free from discrimination,” explained Parsons who used his address to question the stigma still attached to disability.
“Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. If this is the case, then why are people with disabilities still among the most marginalised groups in the world?
“There are more than one billion people on this planet who have some form of disability. Despite this figure, many people with disabilities are still being denied their fundamental human rights. This is leading to poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.
“You really do have to ask, is it the impairment that is a making a person disabled or is it society?
“Going forward, we must empower people living with disabilities and remove the barriers which prevent them participating in their communities; getting a quality education, finding decent work, and having their voices heard.
“The IPC can help contribute to these goals by broadening the impact the Paralympic Games have on society.
“The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, can also play its part reaffirming that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“But the onus also has to be on governments, non-governmental organisations, professionals and people with disabilities and their families working together in order to secure a better future for all. Working together, we can do more to make for a more inclusive world where everyone has an opportunity to fulfil their full potential. We really can transform lives and transform society.”
During his keynote Parsons talked about the success of the Paralympic Games and how, since the first Games in 1960, the event has transformed the lives of millions of people around the world.
World ParaVolley is recognised by the IPC as the sole International Federation responsible for the governance, planning and management of all forms of volleyball for persons with a physical impairment. World ParaVolley is a non-profit organization and works closely with National Paralympic Committees, National (Volleyball) Federations and private companies to promote ParaVolley competitions and development activities on a global level.
Sitting Volleyball is perhaps the most widely known form of ParaVolley thanks to its inclusion in the Paralympic Games since Arnhem in 1980. Played by over 10,000 athletes, in more than 75 countries worldwide it is a truly global game that anyone can play.
The Social Forum is an annual three-day meeting convened by the Human Rights Council. This year it is focused on “the possibilities of using sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights for all and to strengthen universal respect for them.”