Championing Inclusion through Young People's Leadership and Innovative Mindsets

October 12, 2023

To empower and equip Youth Leaders with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities to become agents of change in their communities, 'Moving Together: 2023 Youth Leadership Summit' was held recently in collaboration with Special Olympics and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

The virtual four-day event started with an opening message from Freda Fung, Regional President and Managing Director of Special Olympics East Asia, highlighting the importance of utilizing the strength of collective experiences. “This Summit is beyond a gathering of minds. It is a conversion of passions and a catalyst for meaningful action. Together we move towards the future where the values of disability, inclusion, and youth leadership shine brightly.” She also shared that the collaboration with UNDP in Asia and the Pacific embodies a “shared vision where today's youth, both with and without intellectual and developmental abilities bring their unique perspectives and boundless potential to the forefront, shaping a world accessible to all and driven by the values we hold dear.” 

It was followed by an interactive Movers Workshop on the Introduction of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to highlight the importance of global goals and the collective and connected ownership of all for an inclusive society. Through the training-of-trainers approach, the participants who joined the event can facilitate their own Movers workshop, equipping more young people with skills and tools to accelerate the SDGs. 

The event also emphasized the role of young people's innovative mindsets. Through a panel discussion on 'Cultivating Innovative Mindsets', young leaders and entrepreneurs shared their experiences, lessons learned, and best practices for being solutions-oriented to create inclusive environments where accommodations are the norm and empathy and understanding flourish.  

One of the panelists, Youth Co:Lab alumni and Managing Director of Spedgrow, shared, "Being part of this event (Special Olympics) and sharing our journey with fellow attendees was incredibly heartwarming. It's not every day you meet people who share the same passion for improving the lives of those with unique abilities. There's a real sense of camaraderie in our collective mission. The event was also a refreshing reminder of how diverse approaches can lead to innovative solutions." 

The event closed with a panel discussion on Global Strategies and Declaration on Youth with Disabilities that uncovered existing youth and disability strategies at a local, national, and global level, which opened a dialogue on the gaps and opportunities in strengthening policies and frameworks for disability inclusion.  

Beniam Gebrezghi, the Program Specialist on Civil Society and Youth of UNDP in Asia and the Pacific opened the session and underlined the key message of the event—moving together by "educating and advocating for the rights, potential, and inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities and committing to a sustainable transformation by working hand in hand to embed inclusive practices deeply within the social fabric, ensuring that our partnership's impact is enduring." 

Overall, the event was a testament that by moving together, we move forward with a shared mission and unified power of promoting disability inclusion and youth empowerment that reaches all, especially those furthest behind.