World leaders call for better care for disabled

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World leaders call for better care for disabled

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World leaders pose for a group photo at the Global Development Summit during the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang yesterday. [Joint Press Corps]


PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon - World leaders gathered yesterday at a development forum for the 2013 Pyeongchang Special Olympics World Winter Games and called for the international community to take steps to improve the social status of the 220 million people with intellectual disabilities around the world.

The Global Development Summit, on the sidelines of the Special Olympics, was held at the Convention Center of the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. yesterday.

About 200 world leaders asked people and organizations around the world to help those with intellectual disabilities overcome poverty and social discrimination.

It is the first Global Development Summit ever held during a Special Olympics.

“We decided to hold this gathering to bring more awareness, attention and action to the social conditions those with intellectual disabilities face,” Na Kyung-won, chairwoman of the 2013 Pyeongchang Special Olympics Organizing Committee, said in her opening speech.

“Those with intellectual disabilities remain neglected in too many places around the world, and their ability to contribute to society is constrained and underestimated.”

Many well-known figures, including Korea’s Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, Joyce Banda, president of the Republic of Malawi, and former NBA All-Star player Dikembe Mutombo, participated in the summit and shared their knowledge and experience.

Rah Seung-yun, former spokeswoman of the Pyeongchang Olympic bid committee and Yang Lan, chairwoman of Sun Media in China led the opening ceremonies.

Aung San Suu Kyi, chairwoman of the National League for Democracy in Burma and a member of parliament in Myanmar, was a keynote speaker on the theme, “From the Shadows to Significance - Achieving Human Rights for Those with Intellectual Disabilities.”

The Pyeongchang Declaration laid out 11 clauses for the international community to follow. A few of the clauses stated: Disabled people must be recognized as independent human beings; their decision-making activities must be respected by everyone; and those with intellectual disabilities and their families must receive support from their own society and nation.

“Those 220 million with intellectual disabilities across the globe, approximately 3 percent of the world’s population, are too often denied the human rights to which they are entitled,” Suu Kyi said during her speech.

“They are more likely than others to live in poverty and have poor health. They are more likely to be excluded from education, employment and health care.”

According to the World Report on Disability conducted by the World Health Organization, about one billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, are considered disabled.

She said human rights are the birthright of all, and people in the world must ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are allowed to enjoy their rights.

“In order to reduce poverty for those with intellectual disabilities, we must include them in the mainstream,” Suu Kyi continued. “They have been living in the shadows, but they are not forgotten. We are here today to convey that message, to examine their urgent needs and to address those needs. Together, we can create solutions to end the cycle of poverty and exclusion.”

She also mentioned the conditions in Myanmar in accordance with the subject with the summit.

She said that the military government of Myanmar had ignored the disabled population. She said that the government spent less than $1 per disabled person in 2008 and more than 85 percent of people with disabilities in Burma are currently unemployed.

“We wanted to identify how Special Olympics sports, health, education and community-building programs can help to improve social and economic development initiatives at the country, regional and international levels through this forum,” said Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics International.


By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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