Beginning this year, the United Nations — and all of its member countries — will set aside a special annual day to recognize Down syndrome.

A resolution approved by consensus vote in the U.N. General Assembly late last year named March 21 World Down Syndrome Day. Accordingly, member nations will be asked to promote awareness of the chromosomal disorder starting this spring.

Now officials at the U.N. say they will mark the day by gathering members of the Down syndrome community at U.N. headquarters in New York for a conference tackling issues ranging from education and independent living to research and working with the media.

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Organizers with the Brazilian delegation, which spearheaded the effort, say they’re hoping to get representatives from as many countries as possible to attend the event.

For at least six years, Down syndrome advocates have promoted an awareness day on March 21. But the U.N. action stands to bolster their efforts. The date, 3/21, is considered significant because Down syndrome occurs when an individual has three copies of the 21st chromosome.

In addition to World Down Syndrome Day, the U.N. previously set aside an annual day to honor autism. April 2 was named World Autism Awareness Day in 2007.

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