6 April 2011

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

World Autism Day ‘Call to Action’ for All Those Who Want More Compassionate,


Inclusive World, Says Secretary-General at Headquarters Event


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to a panel discussion on “Solving the Autism Public Health Puzzle: Regional and International Collaboration”, in New York, 6 April:

I am honoured to be here today with all of you.

My wife and I both feel strongly that autism is a matter of international concern that demands our collective attention.

Before the United Nations created World Autism Awareness Day, a mother googling “Autism” and “United Nations” would get only two hits: both from the World Health Organization.

Today, thanks to all of you in this room and many others, a parent would get more than 2 million.  Thank you very much for that effort.

This Day is a time to remember that we can respond to autism effectively, with the right tools and schools.

This Day is a call to action — for all of us who want a more compassionate and inclusive world.

More and more children and people are being diagnosed with autistic conditions.  Autism strikes without discrimination — but people living with autism can suffer intolerable discrimination that must stop.

We have to unite our efforts.  We have to share experiences — what works, and what does not work.  And we have to raise funds to turn workable solutions into practical actions.

When I think of what is at stake I remember one young woman whose brother has autism.  People who didn’t understand his condition would ask: “What is wrong with that child?  Why is he acting like that?”  Once someone blamed her mother and father, saying: “Why can’t they be better parents?”  The girl was so stung by those words, she will never forget them.

Fortunately for all of us, she dealt with this ignorance by organizing gatherings of families dealing with autism.  They asked completely different questions.  Instead of judging her parents, they wanted to know: “Are you okay?  Do you need anything?”

That difference — between blame and support, between judgment and compassion — is what World Autism Awareness Day is all about.  Our challenge is to move people from misunderstanding to empathy.  This is a movement — a global movement — that goes beyond people with autism and their families.  This is a movement to create a better world for all of us.

Thank you very much for your commitment and leadership.

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For information media • not an official record