Geneva, Switzerland 10 July 2013 – At a special ceremony today at the headquarters of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, and  Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the 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 Pyeong Chang, Republic of Korea in January. IFRC’s Under Secretary General, Malika Ait-Mohamed Parent, who served as one of the distinguished panelists at the event, highlighted 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,” Mr Geleta said. “Together we can end the cycle of stigma and share stories of inspiration.”

Through this partnership, the IFRC and Special Olympics will enable children and adults with intellectual disabilities who are 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 National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies will join forces across the Movement to engage youth in inclusive sports, support health care communities providing care for people with intellectual disabilities, help families in remote locations access social services for their children, and advocate for improved policies and practices 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,” Mr Shriver said. “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.”

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