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UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, right, addresses media at MOU signing that will expand the partnership between Special Olympics and UNICEF.

Outside the world of Special Olympics, it is rare to encounter someone who understands the mission of our movement as well as Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF.  He is someone who “gets it.” He gets that Special Olympics isn’t just a nice set of sports competitions, but a critically important human rights initiative. He gets that people with disabilities continue to be the most neglected population in the world. He gets that it’s not about “them” versus “us,” but about “all of us”. He gets that people with disabilities need opportunities to realize their skills and potential. And he gets that the only way to fight stereotypes and end discrimination is by changing attitudes, not just laws.

This is why I was so thrilled to join him yesterday in signing a new Memorandum of Understanding between Special Olympics and UNICEF that will strengthen our work together to raise awareness and challenge negative attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities. Together with UNICEF, Special Olympics will do more to encourage governments to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to integrate children and young people with disabilities into mainstream society.  We will also work together toward achieving the UN Millenium Development Goals through our community and health initiatives throughout the developing world.

Yesterday, Dr. Lake wrote an article on the Huffington Post that I urge you to read and share far and wide.  He says:

“Owing primarily to myths and misinformation, wanton neglect and prejudice, [the capacities of people with disabilities] are underestimated, their talents overlooked, their needs neglected. These children are often isolated, marginalized, and in effect, invisible — sometimes even within their own families.

This is unconscionable. These children have the same hopes and dreams as children everywhere. They have the same right to make the most of their lives. And they can contribute in so many ways to their societies.

It is time we came together as a global community to foster the dreams and promote the rights of all our children.”

As Special Olympics and UNICEF enter a new partnership, we are thrilled to work with someone who already knows why we do what we do, and is committed to action on behalf of the world’s most excluded population.

Editor’s Note:
Check out the great web story that UNICEF posted online about the partnership.
You can also watch a short minute from the proclamation signing below:

UNICEF also has a great video on their website:

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