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UNICEF and Special Olympics

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UNICEF and Special Olympics join forces to advance Early Childhood Development for children with intellectual disabilities in the Russian Federation

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Russian Regional Co-ordinators take part in a Young Athlete Training Seminar facilitated by Marian Murphy (centre) from Special Olympics Europe Eurasia

UNICEF and Special Olympics Working Together

Moscow, Russian Federation: UNICEF and Special Olympics have formed an official partnership in Russia to advance early childhood development initiatives in support of children with intellectual disabilities.  The agreement will strengthen ties between the two organizations and will assist with the implementation of the core tenants of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 

Working together, the two organizations are organizing training seminars and activities in Tomsk, Vladimir and Sverdlovsk based on the Special Olympics Young Athlete™ initiative. Young Athletes is a unique sports and play program for children with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 2½ and 7 years. The initiative helps develop motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and social skills in a highly participatory environment.

The seminars involve at least 50 participants per region with Special Olympics coaches, teachers, family members, caregivers, authorities and other stakeholders involved.  Festivals in each region for more than 200 young children with intellectual disabilities and their families and caregivers are being organised.

“Children with intellectual disabilities are one of the most marginalized populations in the world.  The provision of early childhood development initiatives in support of children with intellectual disabilities is crucial for their overall development, and also offers a unique opportunity for local communities to directly engage with parents and caregivers. This new partnership helps highlight that children with disabilities have the same rights as all other children and helps bring the core tenants of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities direct to those that are most in need of these services,” said David Evangelista, Senior Director, Multilateral Partnerships for Special Olympics, Inc.  

“We are truly excited about the partnership with UNICEF.  With its support, and the continued support of the coaches, volunteers, and families of Special Olympics Russia, we are committed to building early childhood intervention activities through our Special Olympics Young Athletes ™ initiative.  We know from our global and regional programming that such activities have a profound and positive effect on children with intellectual disabilities and their parents and caregivers,” said Dr. Andrei Pavlov, President of Special Olympics Russia. 

UNICEF and Special Olympics share a global partnership designed to advance the rights and abilities of children with intellectual disabilities.  Signed into action by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Special Olympics Inc. Chairman Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, the partnership currently features active programming in over 20 countries.

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to 4 million athletes in 170 countries worldwide, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and related programs. Special Olympics takes place daily, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; Facebook; YouTube, and


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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