New York

3 April 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at World Autism Awareness Day Event: "Delivering Answers through inclusive International Collaboration"

 I extend my warmest welcome to all who have come together for this important observance.
            The turnout today is a welcome sign of solidarity among experts, activists, governmental officials and, above all, the individuals and families affected most directly.
Your numbers and presence here show that autism is gaining a higher profile at the United Nations and around the world.
            I call that progress.  But I also call it only a beginning.
            Tens of millions of people around the world are on the autism spectrum.
            The disorder can strike anyone, anywhere.
            Our responsibility, as an international community -- as a single human family-- is to respond with care and commitment.
With therapies and investments that focus on the whole person, and that continue beyond childhood.
With plans that lead to education, employment and opportunity..
Too often, people with autism and other disabilities are stigmatized.  We must counter such discrimination at every turn.  Our approach must be the precise opposite: mainstreaming by integrating children in regular education settings, and by creating job opportunities that make use of the strengths of people with autism.
That is the inclusive world we are striving to build.  That is also the promise enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  People with autism are equal citizens who should enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The United Nations is strongly committed to using every possible vehicle and venue for raising awareness about this challenge -- and about the many talents that are sometimes overlooked in people with autism.
In that spirit, last year the United Nations Postal Administration let the autism community know that we were looking for artists who have been diagnosed with autism to create images for our commemorative stamp programme.
In a short period of time, more than 200 pieces of artwork from around the world poured in for consideration.
As you can imagine, the selection process was extremely difficult because so many wonderful designs were submitted.  From colourful self portraits to abstract drawings, the variety was very impressive.
Yesterday, six postage stamps and two collectable envelopes dedicated to autism awareness went on sale at UN Headquarters in New York, Vienna and Geneva.
The eight final images reflect not only the skills and talents of eight very creative individuals, but also the autism community as a whole.
Seven of the exceptional artists are with us here today.  I ask those stamp artists and their families to stand and be recognized for their outstanding contributions.
Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for your commitment.
Over the years, UN stamps have featured the works of artists such as Marc Chagall, Norman Rockwell, Wyland and Peter Max.  Now, all of you join them as members of the United Nations stamp design club.
Your works may appear on tiny pieces of paper, but they send a big and powerful message to people around the world that talent and creativity live inside all of us. Thank you for sharing your skills with our United Nations family.
Let me add, on a personal note, that my wife has been very involved with autism awareness and advocacy efforts.
She continues to be inspired by individuals with autism, by their families and by all those working so hard to improve their lives, whether through research, advocacy or other kinds of commitment.
Our hearts are with you in this cause.  We will continue to do our part to ensure that all people on the autism spectrum can realize their potential and live lives of dignity, security and well-being.
            Thank you.