The Revolution is Inclusion: First-ever Special Olympics athlete-led panel convenes at United Nations

Dustin Plunkett demands inclusion for all during 12th Session of the Conference of States Parties.

On Monday, June 10th, Special Olympics International, in partnership with the United Nations Division for Inclusive Social Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations (UN) hosted a panel discussion at the United Nations in conjunction with the 12th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Dustin Plunkett joined five Special Olympics athlete leaders from Zimbabwe, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Florida and Missouri and led a panel discussion promoting the need for inclusive policies and programs for people with intellectual disabilities (ID).  Titled, “The Revolution is Inclusion: Sport as a Catalyst for Social Inclusion,” Dustin Plunkett joined the panelists to discuss how sport helped him develop skills and become a leader in California.  All the athletes underscored how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) commitments and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be met unless individuals with ID are among the decision makers – ensuring that all persons with ID, who are often overlooked and misunderstood, have equal rights as those without ID, as well as equitable access to services and resources, including sport, which has the power to change attitudes and foster inclusion.

“I had gum cancer, forming in the upper left side of my mouth, and if I had gone just one more month longer, I wouldn’t be alive today sharing my one million dollar smile with the world,” said Dustin Plunkett on how Special Olympics Healthy Athletes saved his life.

dustin un.jpg

Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, gave opening remarks with Mr. Dustin Plunkett, Special Olympics athlete and Manager of Outreach and Athlete Leadership for Special Olympics Southern California, moderating the panel.  Other panelists include:

  • Nyasha Derera, Special Olympics Athlete (Zimbabwe); Special Olympics Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger; Chairman, Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress; Director
  • Special Olympics International Board of Directors; Certified Sports Official, International Association of Athletics Federations
  • Emanuelle de Souza, Special Olympics Athlete (Brazil); Special Olympics Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger
  • Tajha Ilerant, Special Olympics Athlete (Florida, USA); Global Messenger for Special Olympics Florida and Youth Ambassador for Unified Champion Schools
  • Chaica Al Qassimi, Special Olympics Athlete and Leader (United Arab Emirates)
  • Jared Niemeyer, Special Olympics Athlete (Missouri, USA); Member, Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors; Self Advocate


Monday’s panel discussion can be viewed here.  

“As a Special Olympics Board member and active contributor to building more inclusive policies and practices, I have witnessed the transformative power of sports in changing mindsets and erasing negative stereotypes,” said Ambassador Luis Gallegos.  “The SDG’s simply can’t be met if the most marginalized and vulnerable population of people aren’t heard, aren’t included, aren’t decision makers.  Inclusion should be a cross-cutting theme throughout the entire international development agenda.”

About Special Olympics Southern California

Special Olympics Southern California enriches the lives of 37,800 athletes and their communities through sports, leadership programs, and athlete health. Our free, year-round programs lead to improved health, self-confidence, and independence among athletes with intellectual disabilities and acceptance and inclusion in the community. Special Olympics Southern California has earned a four-star ranking from Charity Navigator for exceeding industry standards. This ranking is the highest Charity Navigator offers to an organization and is given because Special Olympics has demonstrated strong financial health and a commitment to accountability and transparency. Learn more at

Photo credits: Special Olympics North America

  1. Mr. Plunkett … ROCK ON D-MAN ROCKS !


  2. […] The revolution carried over all the way to the United Nations, which hosted a Special Olympics athlete-led panel discussion featuring SOSC’s Dustin Plunkett and five other athletes from around the world in June. It was the first panel of its kind. […]


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