What is necessary to reach democracy in all aspects of our lives? As the World Forum for Democracy 2014 shows, it is important that youth is interested and actively involved in democracy. One of today´s lab presenter is David Evangelista, Vice President of Global Development and Government Relations for Special Olympics International. Youth with disabilities are not equated in democratic decisions. Therefore Special Olympics developed Project Unify, a worldwide active platform to achieve greater social inclusion and therefore democratic action among youth by engaging youth with and without disabilities. Why is social inclusion so important? It enables to disabled youth to take part in decisions made by society, to have an equal right and to be not separated anymore.
“Take exclusion, replace it with acceptance”
But what can be done in order to achieve social inclusion of youth? Project Unify´ s strategy to achieve social inclusion means offering inclusive sport activities, inclusive youth leadership and school-wide awareness and engagement of the importance of social inclusion. “Sport has a unique ability to change the way we think.”, as stated by Evangelista. And it really works! The results of the first pilot in the US achieved show success: 2000 schools in 45 US states integrated Project Unify into their policies. An expansion of Project Unify is also considered all over the globe.
Evangelista outlines that Project Unify achieves a greater social inclusion in school settings, thus changing the behavior of participating youth as well as of nations. In schools which participated in the project, disabled youth was more accepted and integrated. Further, Project Unify offers governments a tool to achieve greater social inclusion of disabled youth. Therefore in countries where the project was conducted the rights of disabled to participate in democracy were reinforced more.“Changing people´s mind takes a lot of time”, but still it is important and opportunity in the future to achieve that youth revitalizes democracy and that democratic behavior on a large scale is implemented .
[source photo: Project Unify website]