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Calls to Action

8th annual World Focus on Autism attracts global dignitaries

September 29, 2015


The Eighth Annual World Focus on Autism event, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, convened first spouses and dignitaries from across North America, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, for an intimate breakfast to unite the global autism community. Participating nations discussed ongoing questions surrounding autism and how together, they can pursue 21st Century Answers. This effort is led by Autism Speaks to raise autism awareness worldwide and improve services across the lifespan. Watch the entire event below:

The event provided first spouses and dignitaries with the rare opportunity to speak with one another about the state of autism in their home countries. In addition, Autism Speaks presented the third annual Suzanne and Bob Wright Autism Achievement Award to Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at World Health Organization, Geneva.

Hosts and Speakers included:

Mr. Bob Wright and Mrs. Suzanne Wright, Co-founders of Autism Speaks

H.E. Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, spouse of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Mr. Antonio Mora, Journalist and Television Host, Al Jazeera Network, Event Moderator

Andy Shih, Ph. D., Senior Vice President of Scientific Affairs, Autism


Mathew Pletcher, Ph.D., Vice President and Head of Genomic Discovery, Autism Speaks

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO


Attendees included:

Albania, Spouse of the Prime Minister, H.E. Mrs. Linda Rama

Albania, President of Albanian Children Foundation, Dr. Liri Berisha

Bangladesh, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, H.E. Mr. Zahid Maleque

China Women’s Development Foundation, Mr.Hailiang Guo

China Women's Development Foundation, Dr. Xiaobing Zou

Comoros, First Lady, H.E. Mrs. Hadidja Aboubakar Ikililou Dhoinine 

Germany, Spouse of the Ambassador, H.E. Dr. Ute Braun

Iran, Spouse of the Ambassador, H.E. Fatemeh Khoshroo

Malawi, First Lady, H.E. Madame Gertrude Henrina Mutharlka

Malta, Wife of the Prime Minister, H.E. Mrs. Michelle Muscat 

Nauru, First Lady, H.E. Madame Luisa Waqa

Nigeria, Chief Advisor, Dr. Hajo Sani

Panama, Chief of Staff for First Lady, Mr. Nelson Castillo

Poland, Senior Health Advisor, Ms. Aleksandra Stepowska

Serbia, First Lady, H.E. Dragica Nikolic

Serbia, Consul General, Mrs. Mirjana Zivkovic

Trinidad and Tobago, First Lady, H.E. Reema Harrysingh-Carmona

Turkey, Wife of the Prime Minister, H.E. Mrs. Sare Dayutoğlu

United Kingdom, Health Advisor, Mr. Aaron Holtz

United States of America, Ms. Mimi Gaffney

United States of America, Ms. Evangeline Geskos