JAKARTA, 20 December 2017 – The ASEAN Secretariat convened the inaugural ASEAN Seminar on the Promotion of Paralympic Movement towards ASEAN Community 2025 on 18 December at the ASEAN Secretariat. The seminar discussed developments and issues on needs and opportunities of differently-abled athletes, and identified innovative initiatives to support development of ASEAN Paralympic athletes for possible replication in the ASEAN context.

The seminar was attended by officials and representatives of the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Sports (SOMS), members of national Paralympic committees in ASEAN, Dialogue Partners, international organisations, experts on Paralympic movement as well as ASEAN para athletes and youth leaders.

With the theme “Towards an Open and Adaptive Sports Cooperation in ASEAN,” the discussion kicked off with a panel on global and regional perspectives and frameworks on inclusivity in all sectors of development with emphasis on persons with disabilities and their participation in sports and physical activities. The ASEAN Work Plan on Sports 2016-2020 which was adopted on 27 September 2016 in Kuala Lumpur includes two key elements related to this seminar. They include promoting awareness of ASEAN through sporting activities that bring the ASEAN people together and engages and benefits the community and strengthening ASEAN people’s sense of resilience with healthy lifestyles.

The seminar was the first of its kind that brought ASEAN Paralympic athletes to share their experiences and achievements in global sporting events. Renowned para athletes, Ms. Amnouy Wetwithan of Thailand and Mr. Setiyo Budi Hartanto of Indonesia talked about the needs and opportunities for differently-abled athletes in ASEAN. Ms. Wetwithan plays badminton on wheelchair and Mr. Budi takes long jumps with one arm.  Ms. Wetwithan was awarded the Female Para-Badminton Player of 2017 in a ceremony in Dubai on 11 December 2017 by the World Badminton Federation.  She was also named the most successful player at the FZ Forza Irish Para-Badminton International 2017 in Dublin in June 2017 with three gold medals. Mr. Hartanto, on the other hand, is the frequent contributor of gold medals on long jump branches at ASEAN Para Games since 2004.

Dr. James Jay Laskin, Associate Professor at the University of Montana-Missoula in the U.S. and a recipient of the 2017 Fulbright ASEAN Research Program for U.S. Scholars presented his ongoing research in Thailand and Lao PDR on the need for physical activity in children and youth and how it relates to health and performance in sports and academics.  Mr. Yong Heng Lee, Chief Secretariat of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation offered perspectives on development of para sports in ASEAN.

UNESCO and the ASEAN Secretariat cited various commitments at the global and regional levels on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities including participation in sports.  Among the ASEAN Member States, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar shared their national efforts in promoting the development of their para sports programmes.

At the conclusion of the seminar, SOMS representatives and experts recommended the need for capacity building for para sports coaches, umpires and other technical officials in the ASEAN Member States in preparation for the 9th ASEAN Para Games to be hosted by the Philippines in 2019.  The participants also recommended the need for collaborative research on the various needs of ASEAN para athletes as well as the special requirements in organising para sporting events such as manuals for differently-abled athletes.  Finally, the participants expressed appreciation for the inspiration from the para athletes present in the seminar and concluded that there are many opportunities for greater ASEAN collaboration in forging ahead together in the promotion of open and adaptive sports development.