More than 150 young and adult leaders with and without intellectual disabilities from over 35 countries will come together in Abu Dhabi this March to share and develop their ideas for a more inclusive world.

The Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit, to be held 14 – 18 March in conjunction with Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, will convene youth leaders from across the world to learn, share best practices, and develop plans to implement the inclusive vision of Special Olympics in their home communities around the world.

The Summit will be held in partnership with the General Authority of Youth, and represents a key component of the Cultural Olympiad, which will run alongside the World Games.

Young Emiratis will host youth leaders representing all seven regions of the Special Olympics movement, including Middle East North Africa, Africa, Asia Pacific, East Asia, Europe Eurasia, Latin America, and North America.

Through workshops and other developmental sessions, they will train to become change agents of inclusion in their home communities.

The event will also include the Global Youth Circle hosted by Her Excellency Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, UAE’s Minister of State for Youth, who will facilitate a ‘live’ discussion with young people on the challenges faced by those with and without intellectual disabilities and shape global solutions for a more inclusive world.

Her Excellency Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, UAE’s Minister of State for Youth, said: “We are honoured to host the youth of the world during the youth conference as part of the Special Olympics World Games in the UAE. This is an opportunity to offer effective programs to create an inclusive society, both in our country as well as their homelands.

“What makes the conference special is that it will have the contribution of youth with and without intellectual disabilities in unified projects. In the Year of Tolerance,
the UAE aims to bring people together across divides; closing communication gaps that breed ignorance, distrust and fear; breaking down stereotypes; and fostering new relationships founded on deeper understanding, acceptance, respect, and trust.

“It means more than simply just accepting the existence of other groups with different norms, language, religion or beliefs or different abilities and instead interacting with them, learning from them, and using those differences to create a strong, peaceful, and thriving society.”

The Global Youth Leadership Summit has been an integral part of the Special Olympics movement for over a decade. Following the Summit, the participants, aged between 15 and 25, will implement the most pioneering winning ideas in their respective home nations with support from Special Olympics and its partners.

Previous youth-led community projects have included training youth advocates for inclusion and hosting sports clinics to teach disability-inclusive sports, and participants share their learning with their peers at home through online platforms.

In a message to participants, Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International, said: “These young people with and without intellectual disabilities are leaders articulating a global vision and building a global movement for inclusion. They embody a conviction that each and every one of us has a gift and our responsibility as community leaders around the world is to create places where every gift is valued. As Special Olympics launches into its next 50 years, these youth leaders will create a global legacy for these World Games in communities around the world.”

Tala Al Ramahi, Chief Strategy Officer of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “This is a fantastic platform for young people to come together and devise ways to build a more inclusive society. We are looking forward to welcoming talented young people from around the world to Abu Dhabi this March to participate in what I know will be inspiring, intelligent and innovative discussions on how to make our world a more inclusive place.

“The United Arab Emirates has always believed in the power of youth to create positive change through engaging them in the policy making and nation building process, and this Summit reflects our commitment to this agenda. These youth leaders are the next generation and play an important role in shaping the inclusive future we all aim and hope to be a part of.”

In addition to the formal Summit programming, on 13 & 19 March (preceding and succeeding the Summit), young Emiratis will have the opportunity to share their personal ideas in small-group mentoring sessions. These two dates will be an important platform for Emirati youth to develop their skill sets as part of their development into local leaders of the inclusivity movement. It will also provide an opportunity for them to ensure the legacy of the World Games lives on in the UAE.

With over 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations competing, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event in 2019.