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Secretary-General hails courage of children, families confronting autism

Secretary-General hails courage of children, families confronting autism

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
As the United Nations marked the first World Autism Awareness Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the courage of children with autism and their families, who strive every day “to confront the disability with a powerful combination of determination, creativity and hope.”

The General Assembly declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day last November in a bid to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the complex brain disorder.

Autism, which affects people all around the globe, impedes the ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioural challenges.

In his message marking the Day, Mr. Ban stressed the need to build enabling environments for children with disabilities so they can prosper as future members of their communities, citizens of their countries and as fully-fledged members of the global community.

“Let us empower them and respond to their needs today, so as to make our societies more accessible, enabling and empowering for all our children tomorrow,” he stated.

The Secretary-General noted that throughout its history, the UN has promoted the rights and well-being of the disabled, including children with developmental disabilities.

“It is especially fitting that this inaugural Day falls in 2008 -- the year in which we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights, and expect to see the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006,” he added.

Yesterday Jordan became the 18th country to ratify the Convention – which opened for signature one year ago. The treaty only needs two more ratifications to enter into force and become an internationally legally binding document.

UN Headquarters in New York is marking the Day with a discussion sponsored by Qatar, which spearheaded the initiative to create an annual observance, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the non-governmental organization Autism Speaks.