Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law


Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law


Article excerpt

I would like to congratulate the International Law Students Association for hosting this panel to discuss issues that arise in the new age of globalized sports, and to thank the other panelists for their informative presentations. We share a common perspective--that the value of sport to society is unlimited in that it inspires us and brings us together on a level playing field.

The organization I represent, Special Olympics, is an international NGO representing nearly 4 million athletes in 170 countries. I have several booklets if you are interested in seeing what we do. We face many of the same legal challenges as other organizations. We operate under a protocol with the International Olympic Committee. Our World Games events face many of the hurdles that may be discussed today regarding the use of images and intellectual property rights, and commercial issues involving event sponsorship. We struggle with anti-doping issues, particularly as many of our athlete population use medication for therapeutic purposes.

My focus today, however, will perhaps be different from the other panelists, in that the issue I will address is how sports can play a role in advancing certain rights addressed in international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is designed to promote human dignity and foster nondiscriminatory, inclusive societies.

My organization, Special Olympics, strives to create a better world by fostering acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. When viewed through the lens of disability rights, sports becomes an avenue for social justice and the simple joy that recreation and interaction with other people can bring.

You have and will hear me today using the term "disability." What is it? Disability is any physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activity. The term is used to refer to attributes that are severe enough to interfere with or prevent normal day-to-day activities. This would include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Disability is a universal condition crossing all socioeconomic boundaries, races, religions, and creeds. The World Bank reports that 600 million people, or 10% of the world's population, have a disability. Up to 80% of these people live in developing nations.

Disability is a cause and consequence of poverty, In developing countries, 98% of disabled children live in poverty and do not receive an education. These rates are even higher for girls.

In much of the world, stigma, discrimination, and exclusion from employment and from society are the consequences of the negative assumptions about persons with disabilities. Perhaps you have never considered the role of sports in promoting inclusion, and in eradicating poverty, but this concept, and legal instruments such as the CRPD, can bring fundamental change to the way in which governments--and ultimately communities and families--view and treat people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The best way for me to illustrate at the micro level how sport can be used to address the rights of persons with disabilities--and be used as a tool for eradicating stigma, bringing together communities and liberating the human spirit--is to introduce you to Aaron.

Here is a picture of Aaron. I'd like you to pass it around.

As you can see from the photo, Aaron is tethered to his home by a rope. His parents used this method to restrict his movements for seven years at the time of this photo was taken, and they did this because he was born with intellectual disabilities.

Aaron comes from Mangulu village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kalumo in the Ntchisi district of Malawi in Africa.

Aaron was born into a family of five children; he is the first-born and the only child with an intellectual disability in his family. …

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