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Community Impact

Iceland Enhances Inclusive Learning through Unified Sports

Ceremony in Reykjavík ratifies the European country's membership in the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion
One woman and three men seated at a table, three are clapping, while a man and a woman in police uniforms stand behind holding unlit torches.
Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) President David Evangelista (seated second from left) led the SOEE and Special Olympics Iceland delegation for the official signing of the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion by Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Iceland’s Minister for Education and Children’s Affairs (seated second from right) in Reykjavík.

Iceland reiterated its pledge to promoting inclusivity in education and sports by officially joining the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion following a signing ceremony in the capital city of Reykjavík, on 30 April 2024.

The Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) delegation, led by President & Managing Director David Evangelista, along with Special Olympics Iceland National Director Anna Karólína Vilhjálmsdóttir, also engaged in discussions with Iceland President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and representatives from the Lions Clubs of Iceland. The focus of these talks revolved around enhancing educational and sporting opportunities and fostering inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities across the country.

“Today is a day of celebration. This declaration is a big leap in our efforts to make sports accessible for all. It was an honor to meet David Evangelista, and we are thankful to him and the Special Olympics movement. Their work and dedication to the cause will further encourage our progress. I am happy and proud to be a part of the All Together project and thankful to all the dedicated people in the sports movement that are leading the way. ”
Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Iceland’s Minister for Education and Children’s Affairs

Recent studies indicate that, within contemporary educational settings, children worldwide encounter social and academic hurdles. Notably, individuals with intellectual disabilities frequently confront insufficient assistance and social seclusion.

Special Olympics' programs, aligned with governmental objectives, provide avenues for sports involvement, youth empowerment, and holistic child development.

The Unified Champion Schools initiative focuses on Unified Sports, striving to promote social integration through sports and leadership roles. Rooted in the conviction that shared training and play nurture solidarity and compassion, Unified Sports unites students, irrespective of their abilities, to engage on equal terms on the same team.

Special Olympics Europe Eurasia President & Managing Director David Evangelista added, “As we navigate the landscape of education and social inclusion, it is imperative that we recognize every child's potential to thrive on the pitch, in the classroom and in the community. By fostering collaborative sports opportunities, we're not just building stronger communities, but also empowering a generation where diversity is celebrated, and inclusion is the norm.

"Thank you to the Icelandic government, its President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and our partners, including the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Lions Clubs International Foundation, for their unwavering commitment to this vision."

As part of the “All Together” project, Special Olympics Iceland will implement inclusive sports programming for youth with and without intellectual disabilities, in partnership with national sport federations and the national government.

The commitment of the national government to support the positioning, financing and implementation of “All Together” serves as a strong platform upon which to implement Special Olympics inclusive education through sports programming. It also has captured the attention of the nation, namely youth and sports clubs, affording Special Olympics Iceland the opportunity to engage more youth in inclusive activities.

In partnership with the Olympics and Sports Associations, the Icelandic Youth Association, and the National Sports Federation for the Disabled, Special Olympics Iceland is committed to harnessing the power of partnership to make social inclusion a part of every sports experience and the academic journey of all students.

This collaboration benefits as well from the support of key governmental figures, including the Minister of Education and Children, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Social and Labour Market. Additionally, it receives support from two national disability organizations, Throskahjalp and OBI.

The Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion is 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.

Government Coalition members include: Angola, China, Egypt, Ghana, Gibraltar, Iceland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kosovo, Malta, Mongolia, Montenegro, Panama, Paraguay, Seychelles, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

The Coalition, made possible by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), drives a public-private partnership model that also engages United Nations agencies, development aid agencies, global philanthropic leaders, corporate leaders and more.

More information can be found on the Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion can be found here.

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