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(LEAD) 'PyeongChang Declaration' urges world to improve rights of intellectually disabled
By Yoo Jee-ho
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- Global leaders participating in a conference on intellectual disabilities on Wednesday will issue a joint statement urging the world to help improve rights for the intellectually disabled, officials said.

   The "PyeongChang Declaration," with the subtitle, "Hearing Voices, Making Changes," will be announced after the conclusion of the Global Development Summit, which opened earlier Wednesday on the sidelines of the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games, the event's organizers said. PyeongChang, a resort town some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, is the first-time host of the athletic competition for the intellectually disabled.


The PyeongChang Declaration laid out 11 points for the international community to follow, as the global leaders called for more independent life and equal opportunities for the intellectually disabled.

   "In accordance with the principles of self-determination and self-advocacy, persons with intellectual disabilities are entitled to recognition as autonomous individuals who are able to express their own views and opinions on the decisions affecting their lives," the leaders said, according to the draft of the declaration obtained by Yonhap News Agency. "The international community should make greater efforts to achieve a better balance among states by strengthening international cooperation, including enhanced assistance to developing states, so that persons with intellectual disabilities can have their voices heard and lead their lives in a manner fully integrated into their local communities."

   Among those taking part in the Global Development Summit were Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader from Myanmar and a former Nobel Peace Prize winner; Joyce Banda, the first female president of Malawi; Timothy Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics International, the governing body of the Special Olympics Games; and Na Kyung-won, the head of the organizing committee for the PyeongChang World Winter Games.

   The leaders also acknowledged the Special Olympics' role in helping create "a better world for persons with intellectual disabilities through sports." They also recognized that participating in sports training and competition can promote "physical, psychological and social health" of the intellectually disabled, which in turn contributes to their "fuller social inclusion."

   "They should therefore be guaranteed sufficient sporting opportunities and facilities and should be provided support for their trainers and leaders and access to the appropriate and relevant information to enable such participation," the leaders said.

   The PyeongChang Declaration also called for more access for people with intellectual disabilities to health care services, education and employment opportunities.

   Though it's not legally binding, the PyeongChang Declaration is expected to serve as the basis on which the international community can have more extensive discussions on intellectual disabilities.

   Lee Keun-gwan, a law professor at Seoul National University who served on the advisory committee for the summit, said the PyeongChang Declaration will serve as the "international standard to measure how the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities will have improved at future Special Olympics World Games."

   "The lives of the intellectually disabled have improved compared to the past, but they still find it difficult to make their own points or lead an independent life," Lee said. "To help them lead an autonomous life in all aspects, including sports, culture, art and education, this declaration emphasized the need to listen."

   In a video message played at the start of the Global Development Summit, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the U.N., said he welcomes the PyeongChang Declaration, "which will highlight the Special Olympics' role in advancing the Millennium Development Goals" by the U.N.

   Ban also said he hoped the summit and the leaders' joint declaration will help the U.N. prepare for a high-level meeting on the rights of the disabled in September.