Global leaders pledge better world for intellectually disabled
PYEONGCHANG – International figures, including Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, committed to fighting discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities Wednesday that she said are deprived of the rights to make choices in their lives.
The participants issued a joint declaration, whose core message is to protect rights of the intellectually disabled by giving them equal access to opportunities, at the Special Olympics Global Development Summit in PyeongChang
After Special Olympics International Chairman Timothy Shriver remarked that Suu Kyi “made sacrifices” for the lives of underprivileged people in her country, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said, “I never thought that I made sacrifices. I just made choices,” urging the international community to help people with intellectual disabilities make their own choices.
“We need to face the fact that problems do exist, and we don't have to be ashamed of them. What we need to do is to find solutions,” said Suu Kyu, noting that love, compassion, generosity and honesty are the words that we should live by to achieve that goal.
Guests from various sectors and regions, such as Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, Malawi President Joyce Banda and Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, participated in the social discourse and pledged to make “specific plans” to resolve issues.
“Have we come here to repeat words that have been spoken before or have we come here because something has stirred within us asking how far we are really willing to go?” Shriver said. “We have big ideas: equal access to healthcare and equal access to schooling. Is it shocking? These are not our ideal goals. It is our goal. Nothing less will do.”
Na Kyung-won, chairwoman of the PyeongChang Special Olympics Organizing Committee, said the object of the meeting is to generate interest in the plight of the intellectually disabled.
What the event will bring about is perhaps more important than the event itself, she said.
She added, “We have to look at their perspective when approaching the issues instead of sticking to our own point of view in helping them.”
Banda promised that she will also fight “stigma and discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities” in Malawi, underlining the need to respect their opinions. She said, “No one must make decisions on their behalf without them.”
A solemn moment at the summit was provided by Special Olympics marathon runner Loretta Claiborne. She made an impassioned speech to those present take the ideas discussed home and spread them to others.
“Until this happens, we will still go through the problems that we are going through,” she said.