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Calls to Action

Spouse of UN Secretary-General Promotes GAPH in Serbia

August 22, 2012

At the beginning of a recent visit to Belgrade, Serbia, by the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, his wife, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, toured a daycare center for children with autism. While there, she called on Serbia to join Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health Initiative (GAPH). Mrs. Ban also announced the Serbian edition of Autism Speaks’ 100 Day Tool Kit, which Autism Speaks worked to adapt and translate with the U.N. Development Programme Mission in Serbia.

“Autism is an issue close to my heart, and my husband and I have been very involved in the efforts to raise awareness on the issue,” Mrs. Ban said during her visit. “I hope that Serbia will join the Global Autism Public Health Initiative, which is spearheaded by Autism Speaks. GAPH transcends social, cultural and geographic boundaries, increasing awareness, service delivery and research collaborations around the world. Serbia can be a powerful partner and leader in this initiative.”

Mrs. Ban plays an important role in Autism Speaks annual World Focus on Autism. This annual event, which takes place during the United Nations General Assembly, has brought together first spouses and dignitaries, including ministers of health, from more than 30 countries.

"Autism Speaks is deeply grateful for Mrs. Ban’s continued support for the Global Autism Public Health Initiative and World Autism Awareness Day since their inception in 2008,” says Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright. “We are pleased that our 100 Day Kit is being translated and shared around the globe, and that it will now serve the Serbian autism community. We look forward to our World Focus on Autism on September 27th in New York City, where Mrs. Ban will join us as co-host."

GAPH is part of Autism Speaks’ mission to improve the lives of all who struggle with autism. 

“We welcome the opportunity to partner with Serbia as well as other nations in the region and around the world,” says Michael Rosanoff, M.P.H., Autism Speaks Associate Director of Public Health Research and Scientific Review. “As an organization associated with the U.N. Department of Public Information since 2008 and in special consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council as of this year, Autism Speaks is uniquely positioned to reach a global audience in achieving our mission,” he adds. “However, we cannot succeed by working alone. GAPH is deeply rooted in collaboration and emphasizes local leadership.”

The Dr. Olga Hadži Antonović Daycare Center visited by Mrs. Ban serves more than 500 individuals with autism. Its activities emphasize daily living skills and quality of life. They include swimming, outdoor field trips and crafts such as weaving, pottery and soap making.  Read more about Mrs. Ban’s visit to Serbia here.

Learn more about GAPH here and GAPH-related research projects here. The Autism Speaks 100 Day Tool Kit is also available in English and Spanish.