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Special Olympics Launches “Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion”

Members Pledge to Support the Expansion of Special Olympics Unified Sport and Education Programs to reach 2 million young people in 150,000 Schools and Communities.
Global Coalition roundtable event

Berlin, 18 June 2023 – Special Olympics has announced the formation of the Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion, a pioneering multilateral effort to support people with intellectual disabilities. For the first time, governments, industry, philanthropy and the development community have come together with a shared global commitment to increase inclusive practices in education and sport and create more inclusive schools and communities. Over the next three years, Coalition members have committed to expanding inclusive sports and education opportunities to over 2,000,000 young people in more than 150,000 schools and scaling Special Olympics programming to 180 nations.

“Today marks a significant milestone in our movement,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. “By joining the Coalition, governments are recognizing the benefits of inclusive education for all students and are walking the walk when it comes to fulfilling their obligations to create more inclusive societies. We are just getting started, and this leadership Coalition will continue to grow and support Special Olympics’ movement to foster acceptance and inclusion for all people in schools and communities around the world.”

“The grit, determination and sportsmanship exhibited here at the World Games does not end when we hand out the final medals,” continued Shriver. “The athletes and volunteers present today will bring this spirit back to their home countries, but they need infrastructure and resources to sustain and expand inclusion in their communities. Every athlete that was welcome in Berlin should go home to a country that welcomes them to school. That is why we are launching this formidable Coalition: to drive increased action, investment and impact for youth with intellectual disabilities and their nondisabled peers around the world. The Coalition view is simple, and our focus is clear: if we teach children to play together, they can learn and live together.”

Inaugural Coalition members were announced at a high-level leaders’ roundtable hosted on the sidelines of the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. Alongside Special Olympics athletes and families, senior leaders of countries, corporations and civil society committed to investing in inclusive programs that better serve learners with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics will provide Coalition partners with data and technical assistance to help them design public-private partnerships to advance social inclusion in education through sport. Inaugural government Coalition members include: the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar, Jamaica, Mongolia, Montenegro, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Ghana, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Iceland, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Panama, the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates.

The Coalition, funded by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), also includes key global and civic stakeholders including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Refugee Agency (UN- HCR), Lions Clubs International Foundation, Fondation Botnar and textile brand H&M.

While many education systems have made strides to achieve integrated educational settings, the reality for many children with intellectual disabilities is that they continue to be marginalized and isolated. These disparities also negatively impact students without intellectual disabilities. Inclusive learning environments help all students.

“SNF is proud to support the creation of the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion, and we commend the members for their commitment to making meaningful progress on this essential front worldwide,” said Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “But even more so, we commend the millions of young people of all abilities who every day make individual choices that render their communities more inclusive, choices the Coalition will encourage.”

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is a proud supporter of the Special Olympics,” said WHO Director- General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “People with disabilities are too often left behind and excluded from meaningful participation in their communities. When that happens, we all lose. That’s why the work of Special Olympics and these World Games in Berlin are so important – to harness the power of sport to promote health, education and greater social inclusion around the world.”

“Working with a common purpose, clear objectives and high ambitions, the Coalition will create new urgency and opportunity to realize the promise of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Special Olympics Board Member and Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee that drafted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). “Countries of all income levels can achieve their CRPD commitments by joining this movement.”

Impressions of the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion

"The Government of Jamaica is proud to join this innovative, multilateral effort. It brings together two important pillars of our nation and culture: sports and inclusion,” said the Honorable Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports. “As a Nation, we are committed to expand the reach and impact of inclusive sports in schools, serving as a key educational tool in youth development, teacher education and community building.”

Following the Coalition launch and high-level leaders’ roundtable, Coalition members joined a broader group of stakeholders in signing the Berlin Declaration – calling upon governments and the global community to pledge action to promote and invest in the transformative power of social inclusion in education through sport in every school, community and nation around the world.

More information on the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion can be found HERE.

More information on the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion’s inaugural member countries can be found HERE.

Event photos can be accessed HERE (Credit: Ralf Kuckuck / Special Olympics Europe Eurasia) ###

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health and leadership. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and our blog on Medium. Learn more at