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A Growing Coalition: A Growing Legacy

As the movement of Special Olympics and the global community celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Global Coalition for Inclusion, President of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia David Evangelista reflects on the formidable legacy already established and the exciting pathway forward.
One woman (clapping) and three men (two clapping and one signing a document) sit at a table which is branded with Special Olympics and SNF logos.
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 Coalition for Inclusion by Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Iceland’s Minister for Education and Children’s Affairs (seated second from right) in Reykjavík.

Just over a year ago, the athletes of Special Olympics paraded triumphantly into the opening ceremonies of the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in the dynamic city of Berlin, Germany. Marching into an Olympic stadium filled with over 80,000 spectators, the athletes of the inclusion movement took their rightful place on the global stage of both sports and humanity.

Athletes Issue a Challenge to the World

It was a scene to be witnessed: over 6,500 athletes spanning 180 nations converging in a spectacular celebration of boundless human potential. The Games were the largest sporting and humanitarian event of the year and reignited the Olympic flame in Berlin after more than eight decades—a resounding echo of history, reflection, and progress. With the global community cheering on, the athletes of Special Olympics challenged the world to build upon a growing legacy—daring the world to replace exclusion and division with inclusion and solidarity. The athletes challenged the world to listen and follow their call to action, a call echoed in every competition, on every medal stand.

Beyond the competitions, the athletes also proved to be catalysts of a transformative legacy, one still very much in the making. Through their example, their Games legacy dares to bring the benefits of inclusive development to every school, community and sports club throughout the world. The athletes of Special Olympics have inspired the movement to create a first-ever Global Coalition for Inclusion.

Three women and one man stand together smiling and holding up official Special Olympics documents in front of Special Olympics and SNF-branded pull-up banners.
Helen Ernesta, National Director of Special Olympics Seychelles, Charles Nyambe, President and Managing Director of Africa Region, Maryse Berlouis, athlete of Special Olympics Seychelles, and Marie-Celine Zialor, Honorable Minister of Youth, Sports, and Family pictured at the signing of the Global Coalition by the Republic of Seychelles on 4 December 2023.

A Coalition is Born

Made possible by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Special Olympics Global Coalition for Inclusion has emerged as a growing multilateral platform that encourages national governments to allocate domestic resources into the expansion of inclusive programming and sports in schools to benefit youth of all abilities. It is a Coalition that brings together governments, United Nations bodies, private sector and philanthropic leaders, civil society organizations, academia and more—all driving a clear mission: to make inclusion an integrated part of the academic and social journey of all youth.

It is a legacy gaining momentum.

National governments around the world are making considerable commitments to expand the reach and impact of Unified Sports and Unified Schools programming—strengthening national ministries and communities alike. The Special Olympics Global Coalition for Inclusion has a growing membership. This now includes Jamaica, Paraguay, Panama, Iceland, Montenegro, Kenya, China, Mongolia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Angola, Kosovo, Seychelles, Ghana, Malta and more. Together, these nations represent a truly global group of states committed to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities through sport. Collectively, they are leveraging the transformative power of the Special Olympics movement to bring key international treaties to life- such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD).

Key members—such as the Lions Clubs International Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Refugee Agency and textile leader H&M Move—are now working closely with national and regional Special Olympics organizations. Their joint mission is to deepen ties, create sustainable community networks of support and promote the physical, social, mental and emotional benefits that come from physical fitness and sports participation.

A man and a woman stand together smiling in front on a banner which reads Special Olympics Global Coalition for Inclusion and hold up an official signed document to the camera.
Olivia Grange CD, MP, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and Special Olympics Europe Eurasia President, David Evangelista, pictured at the ceremony ratifying Jamaica’s commitment to Global Coalition for Inclusion at a signing ceremony in Kingston.

A Formidable Legacy that Continues to Grow

As the movement of Special Olympics and the global community celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Global Coalition for Inclusion, countless students now have the opportunity to learn, thrive and engage. Families of youth with intellectual disabilities can now see their children as team members, not outsiders. Teachers are now equipped with the skills and tools to make inclusion a key part of whole school engagement. Community leaders now have the platform to make sports clubs and community centers places of welcome to all. It is a formidable legacy that is growing—towards a global Special Olympics vision of bringing inclusive programming to 150,000 schools around the world, and to engage 2 million new youth participants of all abilities.

And the movement is just getting started.

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

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