United Nations, New York, 21 March 2013 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Yet discrimination against persons with Down syndrome and their families exists on many levels. This hurts not only individuals who are directly affected, but whole societies.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

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MESSAGE ON WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY

21 March 2013

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Yet discrimination against persons with Down syndrome and their families exists on many levels. This hurts not only individuals who are directly affected, but whole societies.

Persons with Down syndrome often face stigma and segregation, physical and psychological abuse, and lack of equal opportunities. A vicious circle of exclusion can begin early in life as many children with Down syndrome are denied access to mainstream education – or any education at all.

In working life, stereotypes against persons with Down syndrome often mean they are denied vocational training opportunities and their right to work. In the political and public sphere, persons with Down syndrome and other persons with intellectual disabilities are often deprived of their right to vote and fully participate in the democratic process.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reaffirms that such persons, including those with Down syndrome, are entitled to human rights on an equal basis with others. On 23 September, the General Assembly will convene a High-level Meeting on Disability and Development to ensure that the perspectives of persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, are included in all future development plans.

Given the appropriate support and opportunity, all individuals living with Down syndrome can achieve their potential, realise their human rights on an equal basis with others and make an important contribution to society. We must therefore intensify our efforts to create conditions of empowerment that allow meaningful participation of persons with Down syndrome. Working together, we can help build an equitable, just and inclusive world that celebrates diversity, is free of discrimination and provides equal opportunities for all.

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Down Syndrome is a genetic ocurrence caused by extra material in chromosome 21 that results in intellectual disability. It is not yet know why this occurs, but it has always been a part of the human condition, exists in all regions across the globe and commonly results in variable effects on learning styles, physical characteristics or health. The estimated incidence of Down Syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide. Each year approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with this chromosome disorder.

The quality of life of people with Down Syndrome can be improved by meeting their health care needs, which include: regular check-ups with health professionals to monitor mental and physical condition and to provide timely intervention be it physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, counselling or special education. Individuals with Down Syndrome can achieve optimal quality of life through parental care and support, medical guidance and community based support systems like inclusive education at all levels. This facilitates their participation in mainstream society and the fulfilment of their personal potential.

More information from: http://www.un.org/en/events/downsyndromeday/index.shtml