World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is observed on March 21. On this day, people with Down syndrome and those who live and work with them throughout the world organize and participate in activities and events to raise public awareness and create a single global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well being of people with Down syndrome. Many of these events are recorded on the official World Down Syndrome Day website. Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition, being universally present across racial, gender or socio-economic lines, and affecting approximately 1 in 800 live births, although there is considerable variation worldwide. Down syndrome usually causes varying degrees of intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues.

AFRT, the French Association for Research on Trisomy 21, was created in 1990 for supporting research and informing on medical and scientific advances in the field of Down syndrome (trisomy 21). In 2005, AFRT decided to select the date of March 21 (21/3 in French and 3/21 in English) as a symbolic date for the Day of Trisomy 21. The first meeting was organized by AFRT on March 21, 2005, in Paris, on the theme « From patient to research, better understand to better help ». When, in June of the same year, Dr. Juan Pereira organized an international meeting in Palma of Majorca on behalf of EDSA (European Down Syndrome Association), AFRT proposed them to choose the date of March 21 as a symbolic date for an international Day on trisomy 21 (DS). March 21 was then adopted as the symbolic date by both the EDSA and Down Syndrome International (DSI) boards.

On March 21, 2006, AFRT organized its second meeting in Paris on the theme « How to approach the patient to cure mental deficiency ». At the same time, professor Stylianos E. Antonarakis, from University of Geneva Medical School, who knew AFRT, EDSA and DSI decisions, suggested to ART21, an association of parents from Swiss Allemanic regions concerned by DS, to organize a commemorative day on March 21 in Geneva. Since then, AFRT organises each year at this date a meeting. On December 20, 2007, WHO recognized March 21 as the World Down Syndrome Day. The general Assembly of the United Nations recognised also the same date on December 19, 2011. The General Assembly decided to “designate 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day, to be observed every year beginning in 2012;” and “invites all Member States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, to observe World Down Syndrome Day in an appropriate manner, in order to raise public awareness of Down syndrome;”. Thus, each year, on this symbolic date of March 21, persons concerned by DS organise demonstrations, scientific, social and /or medical meetings, exchange their knowledge as well as their requests at the national, European and international levels.

WDSD was first observed 21 March 2006 and Down Syndrome Association Singapore launched and hosted the World Down Syndrome Day website from 2006-2010, on behalf of Down Syndrome International, for global activities to be recorded. The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon said on 21 March 2012 “On this day, let us reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others. Let us build an inclusive society for all.”

Since 2011, Down Syndrome International (DSi) has co-ordinated the World Down Syndrome Day website and the WDSD Global Video Event “Let Us In!” (see 2013 Event “Let Us In – I Want to Work!”). In 2012, DSi organized the first WDSD Conference held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, USA on 21 March which was sponsored by the Brazilian Mission and Polish Mission to the United Nations, UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and UNICEF. In 2013, DSi organized the second WDSD Conference (called “Right To Work”), held again at the United Nations Headquarters on 21 March, and sponsored by the Missions of Australia, Brazil, India, Japan and Poland to the United Nations, UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and UNICEF. DSi also announces the World Down Syndrome Day Awards every year on 21 March and co-ordinated the WDSD Lots of Socks campaign in 2013.

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