United Nations of Autism

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 67/82 "Addressing the socioeconomic needs of individuals, families and societies affected by autism spectrum disorders, developmental disorders and associated disabilities".

In this resolution, the UN member states recognize "that the full enjoyment by persons with autism spectrum disorders [...] of their human rights and their full participation will result in significant advances in the social and economic development of societies and communities" and stress "the important contribution that non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors can make in promoting human rights for [...] all individuals with autism spectrum disorders [...] and their integration in societies". The GA voices its concern "that persons with autism spectrum disorders [...] continue to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society" and calls this "discrimination" and "a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person".

Autistic Minority International is in the unique position to advance the interests of autistics worldwide where it counts the most, at and through the United Nations, World Health Organization, and human rights treaty bodies. Strategically located in Geneva, and represented in New York, we are present where the decisions are made. Geneva is home to the European headquarters of the UN, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the WHO as well as many other international organizations. All the UN bodies, processes, and mechanisms most relevant to autism, human rights, minority status, health, and disability operate out of Geneva rather than New York. Further specialized agencies based here, such as the International Labour Organization, may prove crucial to us in the future.

The most active site for multilateral conference diplomacy in the world, Geneva hosts more UN system meetings than New York, too, some 9,000 a year at the Palais des Nations alone. Despite this, of the more than 3,500 NGOs in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council only about 250 are headquartered in Geneva. Increasingly, UN system conferences are opened up to the participation, as civil society observers, of organizations not formally in ECOSOC consultative status. The UN's CSO Net database already includes 26,000 organizations from all over the world. In addition, many conferences now offer a live webcast or remote participation, thus further reducing the need for ECOSOC accreditation.

All this opens up new possibilities for autistic self-advocacy at and through the UN that were hardly imaginable only a few years ago. Participation in many conferences permits us to speak in front of the representatives of most UN member states, multiple UN system entities, other intergovernmental organizations, and well-networked NGOs, reaching and influencing them all at once. Occasionally, we may organize side events for in-depth discussion. Oral interventions and written statements submitted to conferences or invited during civil society consultations by UN special rapporteurs, independent experts, and treaty bodies regularly get posted on UN websites and enjoy high visibility. National and local autism self-advocacy groups will be guided by us in compiling country-specific information and materials ahead of scheduled periodic reviews of their country's human rights record.

In a long-term effort, we will work persistently on changing attitudes. As autism permeates every aspect of our lives, autism self-advocacy must permeate the UN.