Geneva, Switzerland 10 July 2013 - At a special ceremony today at the headquarters of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, and the Honorable Bekele Geleta, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), pledged to work together to advance the rights and dignity of people with intellectual disabilities and to integrate this marginalized population into the larger global development agenda.
This partnership is an exciting legacy of the 2013 Special Olympics Global Development Summit: Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities that occurred against the backdrop of the Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea in January. The IFRC’s Under Secretary General, Malika Ait-Mohammed, served as one of the distinguished panelists at the event, highlighting the need for people with disabilities to receive better access to health services and interventions. As a young leader at this event said, "When we bring our skills together, we are unstoppable."
“We must focus our efforts on working with this vulnerable yet powerful group of people,” said Secretary General Bekele Geleta. “Together we can end the cycle of stigma and share stories of inspiration.”
Through this partnership, the IFRC and Special Olympics hope to empower children and adults with intellectual disabilities most at risk in developing nations through community-based activities in the areas of youth activation, health and advocacy. People with disabilities are one of the most marginalized, isolated, and neglected populations in the world. Special Olympics and Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies will join forces in-country to engage youth in inclusive sports, activate health care communities to support increased access to care for people with intellectual disabilities, help families in remote settings in accessing social services for their children, and conducting advocacy for improved policies and practices as part of a concerted effort aimed at Saving Lives, Changing Minds.
“The work we will accomplish together with IFRC will influence governments and societies to end the cycle of poverty,” shared Timothy Shriver. “The poverty we are fighting is not just economic, but poverty of opportunity, spirit, hope, kindness, acceptance and generosity. Sadly, people with intellectual disabilities are the poorest people on earth as they are stricken with poverty of all of these things along with isolation, inactivity and injustice.”
The IFRC and Special Olympics both share a commitment to the most vulnerable citizens of the world. They also share mutual goals: to eliminate health disparities, empower marginalized populations, provide humanitarian assistance, foster youth activation, and encourage the development of national policy.