This is a guest post from David Evangelista, Senior Director of Multilateral Partnerships and Development.
Special Olympics Lebanon youth leader delivers moving keynote address at the IFRC Global Youth Summit in Vienna, Austria
“I stand here today speaking in the name of every athlete, unified partner, friend, parent, sibling, and fan in the Special Olympics community expressing our excitement that IFRC’s Youth Leaders’ work is engaged with our work, actually I prefer not referring to it as ‘work,’ as work gives a sense of forced commitment while we are all here due to a devoted commitment. A commitment to empowering the world’s youth and specifically the most marginalized individuals in our community.” These words, spoken by Special Olympics Lebanon youth leader Joy Jamal Eddine, set the stage for an exciting 3 days of collaboration and engagement between Special Olympics and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) at the IFRC Global Youth Conference, celebrated in Vienna, Austria from 9-12 December 2012.
The IFRC Global Youth Summit was a global gathering of Red Cross and Red Crescent youth leaders from over 70 countries. The focus of the Summit was to mobilize the youth leaders from around the world, and develop key strategies to empowering today’s youth to address some of the world’s most challenging social issues. Through the IFRC “Youth as Agents of Behavioral Change” (YABC) program, youth leaders work in their home communities to support those most marginalized. The keynote address by Joy Jamal Eddine helped to connect Special Olympics Project Unify to the IFRC YABC program, in placing advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities on the agenda, as a key global issue that must be addressed. Special Olympics Lebanon, and Special Olympics Middle East/North Africa (MENA) were highlighted as key leaders in global youth activation in Special Olympics as part of the keynote address. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and engaging.
“You came to this conference with the right sentiments in your briefcase; otherwise you would not have had the inclination to apply. Sentiments are important, but we hope that we send you back to your respective countries with a briefcase of actions instead.” This call to action by Joy Jamal Eddine was met with applause as she placed increased focus on translating the strong participation at the Global Youth Summit to ‘on-the-ground’ action.
The Global Youth Conference was also proud to welcome Special Olympics Austria athlete Tomas Noitzmuller, a volleyball athlete that also participates in Unified Sports and had recently returned from a regional Unified competition in Helsinki, Finland. After the keynote speech, many delegates and IFRC officials came to meet Tomas, and congratulate both he and his mother, Bridget, on Tomas’s great success in volleyball.
Special Olympics and the IFRC are building a global partnership to advance the rights and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, with a shared commitment to ensure that this most marginalized population is addressed as part of the global development agenda and a post 2015 MDG framework. The IFRC Secretary General, the Honorable Bekele Geleta, will be attending the upcoming Special Olympics Global Development Summit Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities, to be held in conjunction with the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Korea in January 2013.