31 March 2017 – Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day, the United Nations today called for recognizing the rights of people with the spectrum neurological condition, which is believed to affect 70 million people around the world.

“Let us ensure that we make available the necessary accommodations and support to persons with autism,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the Day.”

“With access to the support they need and choose, they will be empowered to face the key milestones in every person’s life,” he added, making decisions such as where and with whom to live, what type of work to pursue and how to manage their personal finances.

One in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates by the UN World Health Organization (WHO). Around the world, one per cent of the entire population – possibly two per cent – is on the spectrum.

In a special event in New York ahead of the Day, marked annually on 2 April, the UN and the international community gathered to renew their commitment to raising awareness about autism and the need for people with the disorder to have equal opportunity and full participation in society on equal basis with other citizens.

Cristina Gallach, the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, which co-organized the event along with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said in her opening remarks that to achieve an inclusive society, “we must ensure that the fundamental rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are known and respected.”

The Convention entered into force in 2008, to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people with disabilities, and to promote their dignity.

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