Fighting for the Rights of People with Intellectual Disabilities

At a special ceremony yesterday 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.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 70,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and

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