Press Releases

    April 2002


    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    MADRID, 12 April -- The Main Committee this morning recommended that its Rapporteur submit a draft International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002, and draft Political Declaration to the plenary of the Second World Assembly on Ageing for adoption later today. The texts define the blueprint for an international response to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing in the twenty-first century and to promote the development of a society for all ages.

    The Second World Assembly on Ageing -- held in Madrid, Spain, from 8 to 12 April -- was convened to provide a cooperative forum for governments and societies to plan policies to help ensure that older persons can continue to contribute to society in a meaningful way to the best of their ability. Working parallel to the Assembly plenary, the Committee was charged with finalizing work on the Plan of Action and the Political Declaration. In order to make maximum use of time, the Committee decided to work on the documents simultaneously in two working groups.

    Both documents express the commitment of world governments to take action at all levels, including national and international levels, on three priority directions: older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring enabling and supportive environments. They recognize that, in the face of profound population ageing, societies will need practical and concrete strategies focusing on the social, cultural, economic and demographic realities of the new century.

    The Main Committee also adopted its two-part draft report (document A/CONF/MC/L.1 and Adddenda 1 through 8). That report contains its organization of work, and a series of agreed amendments to both the International Plan of Action and Political Declaration.

    Draft International Plan of Action

    The International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002 (document A/CONF.197/3/Add.2, as amended by addenda 3, 5 and 8) calls for changes in attitudes, policies and practices in all sectors to realize the enormous potential of ageing in the twenty-first century. According to the text, all older persons should be able age with security and dignity, and continue to take part in society as citizens with full rights.

    The Plan aims to ensure that older people fully realize their human rights, achieve secure and poverty-free ageing, fully take part in economic, political and social life, and have opportunities to develop in later life. It also focuses on eliminating violence and discrimination against older persons, gender equality, the vital importance of families, health care and social protection for older persons.

    Governments are primarily responsible for implementing the Plan of Action, but partnerships between government, civil society, the private sector and older persons themselves are also stressed. Concrete actions to put the Plan into effect were laid down, according to three priorities -- older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and enabling and supportive environments.

    The first priority -- older persons and development -- focuses on eight issues which call for urgent action to ensure the continuing integration and empowerment of older persons, thus enabling them to participate actively in society, development and the labour force. Governments should focus on involving older persons decision-making, creating employment opportunities for those who wish to work, and improving living conditions and infrastructure in rural areas. They should also alleviate poverty in rural areas and among older persons in general, integrate older migrants within new communities and create equal opportunities for education and training.

    This priority also urges governments to implement policies promoting access to training for older workers. It sets a target date of 2015 for a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy, especially for women, as well as equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults. Other recommendations under the development priority include strengthening solidarity between generations and ensuring sufficient minimum income for all older persons. In emergency situations, older persons should have equal access to food, shelter, medical care and other services. Governments are also urged to take concrete measures to protect and assist older persons in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation, including providing mental and physical rehabilitation services for those disabled in such situations.

    Under the second priority -- advancing health and well-being into old age -- governments should reduce the effects of factors increasing disease and dependence in older age, develop policies to prevent ill-health, and provide access to food and adequate nutrition. The needs and perceptions of older persons should be integrated into the shaping of health policy. They should also work to eliminate social and economic inequalities based on age, gender or other grounds, develop and strengthen primary health-care services and strengthen primary and long-term care services.

    The health priority also urges governments to provide a continuum of care, ranging from health promotion and disease prevention to the provision of primary care and acute care treatment for older persons. It also urges support for improvement in long-term health-care and social services, including the provision of palliative care for older persons suffering painful or incurable disease. They should work to ensure the integration of palliative care into comprehensive health care and develop standards of training in palliative care and encourage multi-disciplinary approaches for all service providers of such care.

    Other recommendations under the health priority include improving assessment of the impact of HIV/AIDS on older people’s health, particularly in the developing world, and providing adequate information and training to older persons living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers. Comprehensive mental health-care services should be developed, treatment services provided and older persons with disabilities allowed to fully participate in society.

    The third priority -- ensuring enabling and supportive environments -- urges recommendations for improving housing and living environments of older persons, promoting a positive view of ageing, and enhancing public awareness of the important contributions of older persons. It also addresses the availability of accessible and affordable transport for older persons, providing a continuum of care and services for older persons, supporting the care-giving role of older persons and creating support services to address elder abuse.

    The final section of the Plan of Action describes national and international measures aimed at adequate implementation and follow-up. It notes that a vital first step towards implementation would be to mainstream ageing and the concerns of older persons into national development frameworks and poverty-eradication strategies. It stresses that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are vital in supporting governments’ efforts to implement, assess and review the Plan. Research and technology should be directed at the individual, social and health implications of ageing, particularly in developing countries.

    At the global level, better coherence, governance and consistency is urgently needed in the international monetary, financial and trading systems. The Plan calls for speedy and concerted action to address the debt problems of developing countries. A substantial increase is required in official development assistance (ODA), if those nations are to reach agreed development goals. Developed countries are urged to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) as ODA to developing countries, and 0.15 per cent of GNP of developed countries as ODA to least developed countries.

    Political Declaration

    The Political Declaration (document A/CONF.197/3/Add.1, as amended by Add. 4 and by A/CONF.197/MC/L.1/Add.1, 4, 6 and 7) emphasizes that in order to complement national efforts to fully implement the International Plan of Action, enhanced cooperation is essential. The Declaration encourages the international community to further promote cooperation among all actors involved. Recognizing that the world was experiencing an unprecedented demographic transformation, which challenged all societies to promote increased opportunities for older persons, governments expressed their determination to enhance the recognition of the dignity of older persons and to eliminate all forms of neglect, abuse and violence.

    Governments also committed themselves to spare no effort to promote democracy; strengthen the rule of law; promote gender equality, the full protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including age discrimination, recognizing that persons, as they aged, should enjoy a life of fulfilment, health, security and active participation in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their societies. Governments also committed themselves to protect and assist older persons in situations of armed conflict and occupation. Concerted action was required to empower men and women to take advantage of the opportunities, achieve quality of life as they aged and ensure the sustainability of their support systems, thus building the foundation for societies for all ages.

    The Declaration notes the considerable obstacles to further integration and full participation in the global economy remain for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, as well as countries with economies in transition. Unless the benefits of social and economic development are extended to all countries, a growing number of people, particularly older persons, worldwide will remain marginalized from the global economy. With that in mind, governments recognized the importance of placing ageing in development agendas, as well as in strategies for eradicating poverty and in seeking to achieve full participation of all developing countries in the global economy.

    Emphasizing the need to incorporate ageing within social and economic strategies, policies and actions, governments recognized that specific policies will vary according to conditions within each country. They also recognized the need to mainstream a gender perspective into all policies and programmes to take account of the needs and experiences of older women and men.

    To tackle the challenges associated with ageing, the Declaration also underlines the importance of international research on age-related matters, access to education and training programmes, the empowerment of older persons, and the need to create opportunities for older persons to continue working for as long as they wished. Governments also recognize the need to strengthen solidarity among generations and inter-generational partnerships and encourage mutually responsive relationships between generations.

    The Declaration also stresses the primary responsibility of governments for providing leadership on ageing matters and on implementation of the Plan of Action, but notes that effective collaboration between national and local governments, international agencies, older persons themselves and their organizations, and other parts of civil society and the private sector is essential. The implementation of the Plan will therefore require the partnership and involvement of many stakeholders, including professional organizations, corporations, workers, cooperatives research, academic and other educational and religious institutions and the media. Governments also underlined the important role of the United Nations, where requested, in assisting them in the implementation, follow-up and national monitoring of the Plan.

    "The potential of older persons is a powerful basis for future development, enabling society to rely increasingly on the skills, experience and wisdom of older persons", the representatives of Governments asserted -- "not only to take the lead in their own betterment but also to participate actively in that of society as a whole".

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