Deputy Secretary-General: Statements
New York, 21 March 2012 - Deputy Secretary-General's opening remarks at event for World Down Syndrome DayIt is a great pleasure to take part in this first-ever commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day.
I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He’s not here today because he’s travelling.
Both, he and I congratulate the global partnership of governments, activists, families, professionals and others that worked so tirelessly and passionately to bring this Day into existence.
Its establishment by the United Nations General Assembly was an important step forward in advocacy for the human rights and well-being of persons with Down syndrome.
For too long, and throughout the world, persons with Down syndrome, including children, have been left on the margins of society. In many countries, they continue to face stigma and discrimination as well as legal and environmental barriers that hinder their full participation in their communities.
Discrimination can be as invidious as forced sterilization, or as subtle as segregation and isolation through both physical and social barriers.
Throughout the world, persons with Down syndrome are often denied the right to equal recognition before the law, as well as the right to vote or be elected. Intellectual impairments have often been seen as legitimate grounds for depriving persons with Down syndrome of their liberty, and for holding them in specialized institutions, sometimes for their entire lives.
In many countries, girls and boys with intellectual disabilities lack sufficient access to mainstream education.
The prejudice that children with Down syndrome obstruct the education of others has led some parents of children with intellectual disabilities to put their children in special schools or keep them at home.
Yet research shows – and more people are coming to understand – that diversity in the classroom leads to learning and understanding that benefit all children.
The United Nations has worked for decades to ensure the human rights of all the world’s people. These efforts were strengthened by the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006.
The Convention embodies a paradigm shift in which persons with disabilities are no longer regarded as objects of charity and welfare, but as persons with equal rights and dignity who can, in their own right, make an enormous contribution to society.
On this day, let us reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Building our future”, the theme of this conference, is a collective responsibility. Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others.
Let us build an inclusive society for all.
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