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Introductory remarks by H.E. Ambassador Anna Korka at panel discussion organized at the UN with support of the Greek Permanent Mission on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Geneva)

Friday, 07 December 2018

Speech

“Challenging the rules of the game”
Geneva, 3.12.2018
Introductory remarks by H.E. Ambassador Anna Korka

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here among all of you. Allow me to warmly thank the Israeli Permanent Mission for their initiative to organize an event on this important day which we happily cosponsored and supported.

As you all know, today we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is an excellent opportunity for us to focus on people who face important challenges and consider ways in which we can further their cause. One of the essential tasks that we as states, as members of the international community, as stakeholders or as citizens have to fulfill is to ensure their full and effective participation and inclusion in society, while at the same time respecting their difference and accepting them as part of the beautiful mosaic of human diversity.

In that respect, we couldn’t agree more with the assessment that Sport is a powerful tool to deconstruct prejudices and promote - and achieve! - inclusion.

Greece has, of course, a special linkage to promoting sport and in particular the Olympic games, which are more than a mega-sporting event, as they have always been associated to important values and ideals. The paralympic games, we could say, proceed of the same spirit. They don’t just carry with them the same message, that of overcoming one’s self, of pushing one’s limits to go faster, higher, stronger: They make it bold and clear for all to see.

That is one of the reasons why we, along with the fellow members of the core group of the resolutions on Sports and the Olympic Ideal, which we have the honour to lead, have consistently sought to promote and showcase the important role the Olympic and Paralympic movement has to play in achieving the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities. This role is manifold. It includes, inter alia, creating a barrier-free environment for Persons With Disabilities, thus lifting obstacles preventing them from enjoying equality of rights, especially with regard to sport.  It also translates as ensuring that the achievements of Paralympic athletes can display their extraordinary abilities to the world. This message was underlined in our latest Resolution 37/18, which was adopted by consensus by the HR. It notably includes a very robust language on the role of sports in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, the role of Paralympic Games and the need to protect persons of disabilities from any kind of discrimination. The resolution also provides for a panel discussion due to take place in the HRC every four years. I can assure you thatwe, along withthe other core group members, will continue having the rights and the role of athletes and persons with disabilitieshigh on our agenda.

Promoting the achievements of Paralympic athletes can therefore not be seen as charity, aiming at helping some of the most vulnerable among us. Indeed, Paralympians such as yourself, Mr Samuel, show us that, through effort and perseverance, we can all accomplish great things. In that, you indeed “Challenge the rules of the game”, and are truly an inspiration to all of us, and role models who proclaim in a language we can all understand, the universal language of sport, that humanity can overcome even the greatest challenges.

It is therefore of crucial importance that we both increase our awareness of the obstacles met and overcome by Persons With Disabilities and our efforts to remove them. Greece is constantly seeking to improve its relevant framework, inter alia through the implementation of the National Strategic Framework for Social Inclusion 2015-2020 as well as of regionally targeted actions and plans. We will also proudly continue taking initiatives on the international stage to promote and protect the rights of Persons With Disabilities. Sport and the Olympic Ideal are a particularly useful vehicle in that regard.

Thank you.

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