Breaking the Cycle

For far too long, people with intellectual disabilities have been in the shadows, but today with the support of Global Leaders, the world’s largest disability population on earth will begin to be heard, begin to be counted and begin to get the recognition they deserve.

Progress Toward Ending the Cycle

The day after the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics World Winter Games PyeongChang, 2013, leaders from government, business, education, economic and social development, media and civil society convened at the Special Olympics Global Development Summit on Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Facing Obstacles to Solve Them

“I am here to learn how I can make a difference,” shared Aung San Suu Kyi who offered the keynote address of the Summit.

“Imposing assistance on people with intellectual disabilities is not the correct approach. It is they who really know their own needs and who are best placed to shape their own futures. They should be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making and to be active in their communities.”

The Summit discussed the obstacles faced by people with intellectual disabilities. In every community around the world, people with intellectual disabilities and their families face stigma and stereotype that results in low expectations for what they can accomplish and apathy and ignorance that limits their access to health care, education, housing, and employment.

They also experience a lack of protection under the law that denies them their humanity, robs them of their dignity, subjects them to poverty and abuse, and threatens their freedom to participate as full and equal members of society.

Key Participants

  • Key Participants Aung San Suu Kyi, MP -- Chairperson, National League for Democracy, Burma (Myanmar) 
  • The Most Honorable Kim Hwang-sik, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea 
  • Her Excellency Joyce Banda, President of Malawi 
  • Congresswoman Na Kyung Won, Chairperson, 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, Games Organizing Committee 
  • Mr. Song Sang-Hyun, President, International Criminal Court Senator and Vice Minister 
  • Jan McLucas, Government of Australia 
  • The Honorable Wilfried Lemke, Special Envoy, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace 
  • Mr. Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company 
  • Mr. Michael Elliott, President and CEO, ONE 
  • Mrs. Cherie Blair, Founder, The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women 
  • Mr. Yao Ming, Chairman of the Shanghai Sharks Basketball Club and Founder, Yao Foundation 
  • Mr. Dikembe Mutumbo, Founder, Dikembe Mutombo Foundation Inc. 
  • Mrs. Cindy Hensley McCain, Chair, Hensley & Co. and Humanitarian

Influencing Change

Joining the Summit was also HE Mrs. Joyce Banda State President of the Republic of Malawi. “It takes the President of a Country to influence the change,” she shared during the press conference. 

Special Olympics knew there needed to be major attention brought to people with intellectual disabilities in the developing world when they met Aaron Banda of Malawi. Aaron was tied to a tree in his village.

“We don’t lay blame,” shared Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver. “There are no services for families of people with intellectual disabilities in most of the world and this needs to change.” The all day summit consisted of panel discussions about health disparities, sports for change and how the power of one can effect change.