International Paralympic Committee, UN Human Rights Office and other global organizations launch ‘WeThe15’ disability rights campaign

The movement released a video Thursday which will be broadcast in over 60 countries during the Paralympic Games – including at the opening ceremony in Tokyo.



A group of international organizations headlined by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and United Nations Human Rights Office has unveiled a new ten-year campaign that aims to promote the rights and representation of people with disabilities worldwide. The movement’s launch is timed with the open of the Tokyo Paralympic Games on August 24th.

Called WeThe15, the number represents the people in the world with a disability, around 15 percent of the world’s population.

The campaign’s goals are to lobby governments and businesses to drive social inclusion for people with disabilities. That includes breaking down societal and systemic barriers in sport and ensuring greater awareness and visibility of disabled individuals across the board.

The world’s four main disability sport organizations – the IPC, Special Olympics, Invictus Games and International Committee of Sports for the Deaf – have all lent their support to the initiative, marking the first major collaboration of its kind between them. As a result, WeThe15 will be showcased at multi-sport events organized by all four federations, giving the campaign a major platform for every year through 2030.

“WeThe15 aspires to be the biggest ever human rights movement for persons with disabilities and aims to put disability right at the heart of the inclusion agenda”, said IPC President Andrew Parsons. “By partnering with Special Olympics, Invictus Games, and Deaflympics, there will be at least one major international sport event for persons with disabilities to showcase WeThe15 each year between now and 2030.”

International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons sees WeThe15 as a "real game-changer" for people with disabilities (IPC)
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons sees WeThe15 as a "real game-changer" for people with disabilities (IPC)

“These sports events add great value to the campaign and underline the hugely positive impact sport can have on society. I strongly believe WeThe15 could be a real game-changer for persons with disabilities.”

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, says engaging with local communities and using major events like the Paralympics to raise awareness of the campaign would be top priorities.

“WeThe15 is bringing together a unique group of partners – disability-specific sports organisations, the disability rights movement, people from the private sector, researchers and the United Nations – to work together to change the narrative on disability, and to make human rights-based development a reality for persons with disabilities”, Bachelet said.

“We plan to build on the multiple Paralympic Games in Beijing, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles, particularly in the local communities, to make it clear that upholding and advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities is relevant, doable and necessary – for everyone’s benefit.”

Other notable backers of the WeThe15 movement include the International Disability Alliance, UNESCO, the European Commission and anti-poverty group Global Citizen.

Chairperson of the International Disability Alliance Ana Lucia Arellano, whose organization was one of the most prominent architects of the campaign, sees it as a vital step toward increasing the representation of disabled people in society, including in the sporting world.

“Looking into the future, we recognise that there is still a lot to be done if we want to achieve the full inclusion of more than a billion persons we represent. We need new creative and innovative approaches, and we need a much broader coalition to achieve that,” she said.

A still from the WeThe15 campaign video published on August 19th (WeThe15)
A still from the WeThe15 campaign video published on August 19th (WeThe15)

WeThe15 published its first 90-second campaign film on the official Paralympic Games YouTube channel on Thursday. In the video, a range of people with disabilities from around the world remind viewers that “there’s nothing special about us”, emphasizing the things we all have in common such as mortgages, watching reality TV, following our faith, and having a love life.

“While the pedestals are nice and the pity tolerated, we are not special. That’s not what it’s like, that’s not our reality”, one segment goes. “Only when you see us as one of you, wonderfully ordinary, wonderfully human, only then can we all break down these barriers that keep us apart”.

The film is set to be broadcast on TV networks in over 60 countries in the leadup to and during the Paralympic Games; including at the opening ceremony in Tokyo. Facebook is additionally producing a four-episode global series in support of the initiative, and Paralympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Visa will also create their own WeThe15-related content.

To celebrate WeThe15′s launch tonight, more than 125 landmarks worldwide are lighting up purple, the movement’s signature color. New York’s Empire State Building, Rome’s Colosseum, the London Eye and the Tokyo Skytree tower are among them.