Promoting autism inclusion: Qatar’s role in a high-level UN dialogue

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The Qatari Permanent Mission to the United Nations recently organised a high-level dialogue in collaboration with the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization at the UN headquarters in New York. This event marked World Autism Awareness Day and aimed to prepare for an upcoming report on children with developmental disabilities worldwide by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

During the event, Her Excellency Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani, Qatar’s Permanent Representative to the UN, commended the World Health Organization’s efforts in raising awareness of the significance of public health for those with developmental disabilities. She also expressed her delight that Qatar’s experiences will be included in the report, showcasing their commitment to enhancing care and social inclusion for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Her Excellency emphasised that supporting children and adults with developmental disabilities, along with their families and caregivers, is a top priority for Qatar. She highlighted the need to ensure equal opportunities for them to lead happy, healthy, and independent lives within their communities.

Qatar has played an active role in promoting awareness and rights for people with disabilities. In 2007, the nation submitted UN General Assembly Resolution No. 62/139, which led to the unanimous adoption of April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. Qatar was also one of the first countries to sign the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In 2017, Qatar launched its National Autism Plan, aiming to improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families. This plan brings together policymakers, healthcare leaders, and civil society organisations to focus on early diagnosis, quality care, comprehensive health services, and lifelong support.

Qatar Foundation established Renad Academy in 2016, which supports children with autism in the country. The Academy adopts a holistic approach to education, concentrating on the child’s overall development and preparing them for the future.

In addition, Qatar has been investing in innovative research through Hamad Bin Khalifa University, exploring artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance learning, attention span, and overall health for children, including those with autism.

Doha’s ministries and institutions participated in World Autism Awareness Day this week by lighting their buildings in blue as a contribution to the global campaign to raise awareness around autism.

The importance of human rights in ensuring access to healthcare for children, youth, and adults with developmental disabilities throughout their lives is a key focus for Qatar. The nation recognises that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would be impossible if this essential segment of society were to be marginalised.

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