UNITED NATIONS, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The annual observance of World Autism Awareness Day should spur global action to combat the "unacceptable" discrimination, abuse and isolation that people with the disorder and their loved ones face, UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.
"Autism is not limited to a single region or a country; it is a worldwide challenge that requires global action," Ban said in his message for the Day, observed annually on April 2.
"People with autism are equal citizens who should enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms," said the secretary-general.
In December 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day, in an effort to draw attention to a pervasive disorder that affects tens of millions around the globe.
Autism is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social interactions and by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.
In his message, Ban noted that although developmental disabilities such as autism begin in childhood, they persist throughout a person's life.
"Our work with and for people with autism should not be limited to early identification and treatment; it should include therapies, educational plans and other steps that lead us towards sustained, lifelong engagement," he said. "Reaching out to people with autism spectrum disorders requires global political commitment and better international cooperation, especially in sharing good practices."
He stressed the need for greater investments in the social, education and labor sectors, since developed and developing countries alike still need to improve their capacities to address the unique needs of people with autism and cultivate their talents.
"We also need to promote further research, train non- specialized care providers, and enable the autism community to more easily navigate care systems to obtain services that can support and mainstream individuals with autism," said the secretary-general.
On Friday in New York, Vienna and Geneva, where the world body has its headquarters, the UN Postal Administration (UNPA) released six commemorative postage stamps and two collectible envelopes dedicated to autism awareness, with images created by artists who have been diagnosed with autism.
The stamps will send a "powerful message to people around the world that talent and creativity live inside all of us," said Ban.
The UN is the only organization in the world which is neither a country nor a territory that is permitted to issue postage stamps. It is the only postal authority to issue stamps in three different currencies -- the U.S. dollar, the Swiss franc and the euro.
UNPA chief David Failor told a Friday news conference at the UN Headquarters here that the selection process enabled the agency to discover the many hidden talents that people diagnosed with autism have.
"Probably the best part of the process, that we learned, is the talents that some of these people have and working with their families and their relatives and their supporters, and what a great network of people that there is around the world that are really passionate about the subject and want to help raise awareness about it," he said.
The UNPA originally intended to pick three designs to feature on each of the three denominations that it issues stamps for. However, the artwork received was so good that it decided to feature eight designs from among the 200 different pieces it had received.
The stamps will go on sale in New York, Vienna and Geneva beginning on Monday.