March 21 is recognized as World Down Syndrome Day, by the adoption of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 66/149. This year's World Down Syndrome Day Conference, entitled "Right to Work", was held at United Nations Headquarters on March 21. The Conference addressed, among other issues, potential obstacles to an individual with Down syndrome from gaining valuable employment and strategies to overcome such barriers.
Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations made opening remarks, representing the Government of Japan, one of the Conference’s co-sponsors. He expressed his gratitude for the efforts of individuals with Down syndrome, their families, civil society, governments and various United Nations offices in promoting the rights for all persons with Down syndrome. Ambassador Nishida also stressed that the Right to Work is a fundamental human right and work by persons with Down syndrome not only promotes their participation in society but also helps them to improve and maintain their livelihoods.
Also present at the conference on Thursday were two Japanese speakers who shared their personal experiences of Down syndrome. Mr. Kazuki Kobayashi, 27, is a self-advocate with Down syndrome living alone in the city of Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Mr. Kobayashi now works at a local patisserie, Tiny Sweet Chestnut. Mr. Kobayahsi said “I want to be a taxpayer” and addressed the meaning of living, working, and being included in his local community. He explained his work and also his experiences in the Great East Japan Earthquake in Ishinomaki City.
Ms. Setsuko Fujiyama is a member of the Japan Down Syndrome Society (JDS), whose 31 year-old daughter Seiko lives with the syndrome. Ms. Fujiyama became an active leader of the Job Experience Program, JDS, that cooperates with employers to provide young people with disabilities, including Down syndrome, with work opportunities. Ms. Fujiyama took the opportunity to speak about best practices and strategies for preparing persons with Down syndrome and their future employers for work. She stressed that not only can these preparations benefit individuals with Down syndrome, but that such programs can be extremely beneficial to employers.
The Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations is very pleased with the turnout and outcomes of this year’s conference and will continue to do its utmost to promote human rights for persons with disabilities.