UAE set to emerge as world’s fully inclusive nation: Chairman of Special Olympics

ABU DHABI, 21st March 2018 (WAM) – It is most appropriate that Abu Dhabi will be hosting the Special Olympics next year for the UAE is uniquely placed to emerge as the first truly inclusive nation in the world, Dr Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, told a lecture hosted at the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed.The lecture, titled The Unified Generation, was held at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi and was attended by H.H. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.Also in attendance were Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs; senior officials and athlete people of determination.Dr Shriver said UAE was a fitting host nation for the ongoing Special Olympics IX MENA games as well as the World Summer Games next March as it represented all of the ideals held dear by the Games. Not only did the UAE’s vision extend to creating inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities throughout the country but it even had a moral education programme in place in schools to promote tolerance and install universal principles and shared human values. It also had a ministry of tolerance dedicated to teaching children the ideals of empathy, compassion and inclusion, he said.Shriver said that when His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, officially launched the first Walk Unified event in January he was setting a personal example by speaking to the nation in the presence of people with intellectual differences . At that moment, a new kind of power – that of athletes at a Special Olympics – could be seen through the eyes of an important leader of the UAE, inviting a new kind of energy and a new kind of nation , he said.Dr Shriver said, in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous word, it was easy to withdraw behind the walls, or instead – as the UAE was doing – provide a vision of the world opening its doors to one and all. The Special Olympics and the UAE were established within three years of each other and were both founded on the premise that inclusive qualities such as tolerance, unity, and goodwill not only empower individuals to succeed, but yield productive communities that improve society as a whole.Next year’s Games in Abu Dhabi could launch a unified generation, a unified and inclusive country. May be for the first time, a country will define itself by its inclusion GDP as it were, instead of economic GDP, Dr Shriver said, terming it as inclusion revolution, a revolution of hearts and minds .Special Olympic athletes could soon come to be regarded as aspirational, desirable and dynamic figures, critical to the future of the UAE, Dr Shriver said.He said by starting almost from birth and by engaging students in inclusive play with people of determination they would begin to learn inclusion before they learned fear of difference. Schools in the UAE may well become places where inclusion is expected, taught and modeled with Unified Sports on the Special Olympic model.Dr Shriver said this could be done and done well because UAE already had the framework as evidenced by the words used in your own Moral Education Program- solidarity, diversity, inclusivity, moderation, respect, altruism – which was already being taught in classrooms. He said these values could be applied in unified, inclusive sports. Children will not just learn these in the classroom but will learn it in play, Dr Shriver said, terming it the Science of Social and Emotional Learning. He clarified that it was not as if this needed to be taught at the cost of STEM subjects; the learning would go hand-in-hand.Shriver gave the example of a school that worked with the Unified Sport program and devised its own mission statement, pledging to look for the lonely, isolated, left out, the challenged and the bullied while overcoming the fear of difference and replacing it with the power of inclusion . He wondered if every school in the UAE could write its own pledge, capturing its own spirit and energy of its desire to ‘include’.He held out the hope that the UAE could become the first inclusive country and pointed to words used in its own moral education program – I respect myself and others and I am respected – which reflects the same spirit.Dr Shriver said the Summer Games could be the first moment in which the whole of the UAE embraced the idea of educating a unified generation and becoming an inclusive nation. The Games will be the world’s largest humanitarian and sporting event of 2019 and the region’s first sporting event for athletes with special needs.The Games could prove historical, not only because it is the first time the region will play host to a multi-discipline sporting event of this magnitude, but because they could unveil the first truly inclusive nation to the world.

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