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Athletes with disabilities should enjoy the same level of support as all other athletes, High Commissioner tells Human Rights Council

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5 marzo de 2021

AFTERNOON

5 March 2021

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held its annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities on the theme “Participation in sport under article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

In her opening statement, Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said sport contributed powerfully to an individual's health and well-being.  It reinforced inclusion in the community and complemented an enormous spectrum of broader physical activities in daily life, including through recreation and leisure.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognized the role of sport and physical activities in fostering inclusion – and efforts should be increased to make their social, emotional and health benefits available, equally, to persons with disabilities.  Athletes with disabilities should enjoy the same level of support as all other athletes, so that they, too, could excel.  States and sports organizations should increase their efforts to address existing inequalities, ensuring access to appropriate assistive technologies and financial support.

Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said that one of the chief distinguishing features of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was its focus on personhood.  But the person did not stand in isolation - the Convention subscribed to a social conception of the self, a person as a complex interaction with family, community and embedded in general social connections.

Rita van Driel, Governing Board Member of the International Paralympic Committee, said as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, the International Paralympic Committee’s vision was to make for an inclusive society through para sport.  Widely regarded as the world’s third biggest sport event, the Paralympics attracted cumulative television audiences of billions of people worldwide, helping to break down barriers and drive social change. 

Jaime Cruz Juscamaita, Inclusion International, noted that sport was a way for him to improve relationships with others.  As a boy and swimmer with Down syndrome, he felt discriminated against because he was separated with other boys with Down syndrome in swimming clubs - unlike in his school, which allowed all boys to train together.  Boys who only trained with other people with disabilities did not have that opportunity to be included, and that was unfair.

Bodour Almeer, Sustainability Director of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said the FIFA World Cup was the biggest and most exciting football competition in the world.  Stressing that she wanted every disabled person to enjoy an experience that was safe, dignified and as independent as possible, she said FIFA offered dedicated tickets for fans with disabilities and limited mobility and in most cases with a complimentary companion ticket included. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers highlighted the numerous positive examples of regional agreements that promoted the rights of persons with disabilities, including in sport.  Persons with disabilities made up approximately 15 per cent of the global population, yet they faced disproportionate barriers to participate in physical activities and sports.  Speakers asked the panel to further discuss the gender-based structural exclusion of persons with disabilities. 

Speaking were Malaysia on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Lithuania on behalf of Nordic and Baltic countries, Guyana on behalf of the Caribbean Community Group in Geneva, Mexico on behalf of a group of Latin American countries, Thailand on behalf of a group of countries, Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, European Union, Israel, Greece, Monaco, Mauritania, Brazil, France, Sovereign Order of Malta, Marshall Islands, Uganda, Bulgaria, Serbia, Jamaica, Vanuatu, United Nations Children’s Fund, Egypt, India and Viet Nam.

The following civil society organizations and national human rights institutions also took the floor: National Human Rights Council of Morocco, Research Centre for Women, International Disability Alliance, GANHRI Working Group - Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Asian-Pacific Resource and Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Action Canada for Population and Development, Sikh Human Rights Group, and Prahar.

At the beginning of the meeting, Nazhat Shameem Khan, President of the Human Rights Council, noted that this morning she had taken the decision to continue the session and gavelled the agreement since there was no call for a vote on the Bureau’s proposal.  She then explained that, as per rule 118 of the Council, and given the Russian Federation had this afternoon sustained its opposition to the ruling to postpone the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on privacy, a vote to suspend the meeting had been triggered.  This matter would not be debated but be immediately put to a vote. 

By a vote of 6 in favour and 31 against, with 9 abstentions, the Council then rejected the motion to suspend the meeting.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-sixth regular session can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Monday, 8 March, to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Annual Interactive Debate on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Theme of “Participation in Sport under Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”

Opening Statement

MICHELLE BACHELET, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said sport contributed powerfully to an individual's health and well-being.  It reinforced inclusion in the community and complemented an enormous spectrum of broader physical activities in daily life, including through recreation and leisure.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognized the role of sport and physical activities in fostering inclusion – and efforts should be increased to make their social, emotional and health benefits available, equally, to persons with disabilities.  Athletes with disabilities should enjoy the same level of support as all other athletes, so that they, too, could excel.  States and sports organizations should increase their efforts to address existing inequalities, ensuring access to appropriate assistive technologies and financial support.  The participation of persons with disabilities as organizers, spectators, referees, athletes, community leaders and entrepreneurs would be transformational for this sector. 

Ms. Bachelet said States and sports organizations that embraced human rights should include measurable targets and assessments of their progress in achieving disability rights.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had adopted its first Disability Rights Strategy, with effect across all its operations and programmes.  The Office would report on its performance to this Council at the forty-seventh session.  It would continue to strengthen its efforts to mainstream disability rights throughout national and global responses to COVID-19 and the High Commissioner said she was determined to step up this work in 2021.  Whether in the context of vaccination campaigns, protection of socio-economic rights, promoting support measures, or rebuilding from the damage that the pandemic had generated, the Office would continue promoting non-discriminatory practices that reflected persons with disabilities' specific realities – and rights.

Statements by the Panellists

GERARD QUINN, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, commended the High Commissioner’s report, noting it provided a crystal-clear overview of the interconnections between article 30 and the other rights enshrined in the Convention.  One of the chief distinguishing features of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was its focus on personhood.  But the person did not stand in isolation - the Convention subscribed to a social conception of the self, a person as a complex interaction with family, community and embedded in general social connections.  Sport was an avenue for personal self-expression, but was also quintessentially social, bridging the divide between individual and collective endeavour.  Sport ensured that all people could feel part of a collective effort, sharing equally in the gains and losses.  The report particularly laid out two challenges: that there were many crucial intersectional dimensions, such as the under-representation of women and girls with disabilities in sport, and the promotion of sport in post-conflict, humanitarian actions to help communities build resilience. 

RITA VAN DRIEL, Governing Board Member of the International Paralympic Committee, said as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, the International Paralympic Committee’s vision was to make for an inclusive society through para sport.  It firmly believed that change started with sport, and that sport could play a significant role in advancing and accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals.  Widely regarded as the world’s third biggest sport event, the Paralympics attracted cumulative television audiences of billions of people worldwide, helping to break down barriers and drive social change.  The Paralympics were a platform for changing attitudes towards disability and, most importantly, creating greater opportunities.  In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Committee had launched a programme targeting communities in five Latin American countries with high rates of poverty and exclusion, and no access to sport.  The aim was to use sport to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities, by advocating healthy habits and generating a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they lived.  The programme had transformed the lives of more than 550 people, introducing them to para sport.

JAIME CRUZ JUSCAMAITA, Inclusion International, noted that sport was a way for him to improve relationships with others.  As a boy and swimmer with Down syndrome, he felt discriminated against because he was separated with other boys with Down syndrome in swimming clubs - unlike in his school, which allowed all boys to train together.  Boys who only trained with other persons with disabilities did not have that opportunity to be included, and that was unfair.  Mr. Juscamaita said he had become a Special Olympics athlete, a national champion in butterfly swimming, and this had been facilitated by the fact that he felt part of the school, connected to his able-bodied teammates who supported him.  It was crucial to ensure that teachers did not separate children with disabilities from the rest of the students, as children without disabilities would grow up thinking this separation was normal.  Persons with disabilities of all ages should do physical exercise with other people because this would break myths and change stigma and stereotypes.  This separation was happening also with Olympic and Paralympic games, which should form one big event.   

BODOUR ALMEER, Sustainability Director of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said football had a global reach and a unifying force like nothing else.  The FIFA World Cup was the biggest and most exciting football competition in the world.  The event touched everyone - even people that did not follow football.  Stressing that she wanted every disabled person to enjoy an experience that was safe, dignified and as independent as possible, she said FIFA offered dedicated tickets for fans with disabilities and limited mobility and in most cases with a complimentary companion ticket included.  Each and every volunteer and staff member supporting major football events in Qatar was now receiving accessibility etiquette training as part of their mandatory training.  Major entertainment areas in Doha had been upgraded for improved accessibility.  Sensory rooms – which helped children and young adults develop and engage their senses, and were used as therapy for children with limited communication skills – were now included in FIFA’s delivery model for major events at the stadiums.

Interactive Debate

Speakers highlighted the numerous positive examples of regional agreements that promoted the rights of persons with disabilities, including in sport.  Persons with disabilities made up approximately 15 per cent of the global population, yet they faced disproportionate barriers to participate in physical activities and sport.  Speakers asked the panel to further discuss the gender-based structural exclusion of persons with disabilities.  There was a lack of reasonable accommodation, assistive devices and financing to encourage and support the participation of persons with disabilities in various types of sport.  How could policy processes, funding programmes and training mechanisms further promote their rights?  Speakers called on all States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.  The impact of COVID-19 on the rights of persons with disabilities was concerning, as speakers outlined the national measures that their Governments were taking to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities to participate in sport.    

The enjoyment of sport and leisure promoted the health and empowerment of persons with disabilities.  Therefore, it was crucial to create opportunities and work with communities.  There was an urgency during this crisis to protect those most vulnerable in societies, building truly inclusive environments.  Speakers asked the panel about specific measures that States could take to raise awareness, especially with relation to women and girls with disabilities.  A global cultural shift to reorient policies to focus on the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities must happen - they had a central role in building a new humanity.  Speakers expressed deep concern over the exclusion of children with disabilities, in particular girls, from sport, leading to a high prevalence of overweight and poorer health outcomes.  Alarm over violence against children with disabilities in sport was raised, with speakers noting a concerning lack of statistics regarding this issue.

Concluding Remarks

GERARD QUINN, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said he agreed with the speaker who said that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was a civilizational achievement.  It was vital to empower people with disabilities to participate in events such as the upcoming World Cup.  Pointing out that there was a direct link between article 30(5) and article 8 of the Convention, Mr. Quinn said he had been gratified to hear statements from regional organizations and national human rights institutions on the advancement of persons with disabilities’ access to sport.

RITA VAN DRIEL, Governing Board Member of the International Paralympic Committee, said all had a role to play.  The International Paralympic Committee would continue to develop the organizational capacity of its members, so that they may collaborate further with their respective governments in increasing access to sport for persons with disabilities.  The Committee notably targeted women, children, and girls in that context.  The upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo would increase opportunities for persons with disabilities. 

JAIME CRUZ JUSCAMAITA, Inclusion International, recalled he had studied in an inclusive school where he had always taken part in physical education classes.  This had contributed to bringing down myths around disabilities.  He would like to see greater inclusion, notably at the Olympics, so that the principle of leaving no one behind became a reality.

BODOUR ALMEER, Sustainability Director of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said accessibility remained a priority for Qatar in the context of its preparation for the World Cup.  Qatar was actively working with all rights holders and experts to make sure the event would be a fantastic experience.  She looked forward to welcoming all to Qatar in 2022.


Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/03/les-athletes-handicapes-devraient-beneficier-du-meme-niveau-de

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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