IPC President tells Sport Ministers that Para sport investment will improve society

IPC President Andrew Parsons spoke about the Paralympic Games and Para sport’s track record for driving inclusion in society at UNESCO’s 7th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VII) in Baku, Azerbaijan 28 Jun 2023
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, makes a speech
Parsons talked about the impact the Paralympic Games have on host countries and invited all Sport Ministers to attend Paris 2024.
ⒸKatharina Eimermacher/ IPC

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons has urged sport ministers from around the world to increase their investment into Para sport in order to make for a better world for the planet’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities.

On Wednesday, 28 June 2023, at UNESCO’s 7th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VII) in Baku, Azerbaijan, Parsons spoke about the Paralympic Games and Para sport’s track record for driving inclusion in society.

“The Paralympic Games is a showcase of what persons with disabilities can achieve at the highest level, when barriers to succeed are removed. Just imagine how that system of inclusion can work if applied to other areas of society such as education, employment, infrastructure and transport. It would be remarkable,” Parsons said.

“Para Sport has proven a tremendous driver for changing attitudes, advancing legislation, empowering people and changing the societal fabric of countries.

“An absence of accessible and adequate facilities and equipment, lack of inclusive programming, and limited resources are some of the factors limiting participation in sport and physical activity.

“At a time when data shows nations are spending 60 per cent more on treating illnesses caused by a lack of exercise than on recreation and sport, we need to address these barriers as soon as possible.”

Paralympic Games as a catalyst for change

During his speech, Parsons talked about the tremendous impact the Paralympic Games have on host countries, highlighting the impact of the London 2012 on British society and measures the French government is taking as a result of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

“Often it takes hosting the Paralympic Games for a government to take disability sport seriously and re-evaluate their approach towards persons with disabilities,” Parsons explained.

“Hosting the Paralympics changes the social dynamic of a country, acting as a catalyst to sustainable development.

“One in three British people changed their attitudes towards persons with disabilities following the London 2012 Paralympics. Six years later, data showed one million persons with disabilities were in employment in the country.

“Ahead of Paris 2024, President Emmanuel Macron is planning several measures that will advance the lives of France’s 12 million persons with disabilities and encourage sports participation.

“This includes 1.5 billion euros of accessibility improvements in public spaces, a full reimbursement of wheelchair purchases, reduced tax on adapted sports equipment, inclusive schooling for 430,000 students, and an expansion nationwide of the inclusive sports club initiative that is currently being implemented in Paris.”

The IPC President also invited all Sport Ministers to attend the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games to witness first-hand the spectacular performances of Para athletes.

“I promise you a life-changing experience that will provide you with a greater understanding as to why more investment is needed in sport for persons with disabilities,” he said.

“It should not take hosting the Paralympic Games to transform the lives of persons with disabilities. That transformation can and should take place now.”

Measuring Para sport’s impact 

As part of the IPC’s Strategic Plan 2023-2026, the IPC aims to serve its 200 plus members and athletes to advance the Paralympic Movement.

One of the ways it is achieving this is through the NPC Development Programme which was launched in 2017 to increase the knowledge, skills, capacity, and opportunities for National Paralympic Committees at all levels to develop Para athletes and Para sport.

Parsons shared with Sport Ministers that to date the programme has benefitted 170 NPCs and 600,000 individuals – split almost 50/50 in terms of gender.  He also explained why the IPC wants to get better at demonstrating the positive impact of Para sport.

Parsons said, “We aim to gather evidence that proves Para sport is an accelerator to driving social inclusion and empowering persons with disabilities.

“With this evidence, it will be easier for NPCs to engage with their respective governments. Currently, this is a real challenge with many States wrongly seeing sport for persons with disabilities as a luxury rather than a human right.”

The UNESCO Global Sports Conference – MINEPS VII – took place between 26-29 June 2023.