London/Geneva, August 29, 2012: In a few hours, the largest ever Paralympic Games will open in London, with more than 4,200 athletes hailing from 166 countries competing in 21 sports. From a UN perspective, the Games offer a great opportunity to keep advancing the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities or impairment, both in and through sport. They are also a celebration of peaceful coexistence.
Since their inception in the aftermath of World War II, the Paralympic Games have always been inextricably linked to the advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities, to their inclusion into society, to their well-being and empowerment. This year’s edition is no exception.
“For the United Nations, the efforts of the Paralympic Movement are of great importance with a view of promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially the reference to Sport due to the endless possibilities that Sport provides for inclusion and acceptance of diversity.” is the UN Secretary-General’s message for the inauguration of the Paralympic Wall that took place yesterday in the Olympic Village in London, UK. The message has been delivered by UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke.
Furthermore, Mr Lemke stated that “Access to sport, physical activity and play is a fundamental right for everyone.” The Paralympic Wall symbolizes the solidarity of athletes and is promoting the ratification and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that sport is recognized as a tool contributing to inclusion, tolerance, and diversity.
The UN Convention is the first legally binding international instrument to address the rights of persons with disabilities and sport. The Convention and its Optional Protocol was adopted on 13 December 2006 and entered into force on 3 May 2008. Since that date it has been signed by 153 countries and ratified by 119 of them so far.
The 2012 Paralympic Games are part of the largest sporting events in the world today. “Paralympic athletes achieve remarkable performances and get the chance, every two years, to shine in the limelight and show the world what they are capable of,” says the Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, who is present in London. “Paralympic athletes are real change makers and role models in the sense that they greatly contribute to changing stereotypes and the way we sometimes look at persons with disabilities as well as the way they look at themselves,” he adds, and concludes: “Sport is a wonderful equalizer and a very efficient tool to ensure inclusion. It can certainly place everyone on a level playing field.”
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is a very important actor not only in the field of competitive sport, but also in the promotion and support of the rights for persons with disabilities. This is the crossroads where the United Nations, in particular the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), and IPC stand firmly united.
Since the lead up to the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the biennial United Nations General Assembly Resolution Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal has also been incorporated to the Paralympic Games. On 17 October 2011 in New York, all 193 UN Member States co-sponsored a General Assembly resolution calling for the observance of the Truce, a first in history, which urges Member States to observe, within the framework of the Charter, the Olympic Truce, individually and collectively, throughout the period beginning with the start of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, on 27 July, and ending with the close of the XIV Paralympic Games, on 9 September 2012. —- UNOSDP/Image © IPC