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12 April 2002

12 April 2002


Governments Affirm Concept of Society for All Ages

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

MADRID, 12 April -- At the closing of the Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid, Spain, this afternoon, world governments set out the blueprint for an international response to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing in the twenty-first century and the promotion of the concept of a “society for all ages”-- the main theme of the event.

Responding to growing concern over the speed and scale of global ageing, the Assembly adopted its main outcome documents -- a Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action, 2002 -- which committed governments to act to meet the challenge of population ageing and provided the world policy makers with a set of 117 concrete recommendations, covering three main priority directions: older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

Marking the twentieth anniversary of the First World Assembly on Ageing, the Second Assembly (Madrid, 8-12 April) was devoted to an overall review of the outcome of that event in a global effort to address the “demographic revolution” that is taking place all over the world. The aim of the event was to advance the global ageing agenda beyond the 1982 Plan of Action and address the global force of population ageing and its impact on development.

As the demographic changes are expected to be the greatest and most rapid in developing countries, where the older population is expected to quadruple by 2050, the Assembly recognized the importance of placing ageing in the context of strategies for the eradication of poverty, as well as efforts to achieve full participation of all developing countries in the world economy. The texts promoted a new recognition that ageing was not simply an issue of social security and welfare but of overall development and economic policy. They also stressed the need to promote a positive approach to ageing and overcome the negative stereotypes associated with it.

Stressing the need to ensure that ageing has a basic place in all development agendas -- both domestic and international -- governments committed themselves to the full protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, recognizing that persons, as they aged, should enjoy a life of fulfilment, health, security and active participation in economic, social, cultural and political life.

By adopting the texts, the Assembly also expressed its commitment to active ageing through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, access to services, investment in social services and ensuring the right of older persons to continue working, should they choose to do so. Emphasis was also placed on the impact of HIV/AIDS on older persons and their housing, educational and recreational needs. Among other issues addressed in the texts are inter-generational solidarity, and protection of older persons in situations of armed conflict, including foreign occupation.

“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 in the Declaration -- “not only to take the lead in their own betterment but also to participate actively in that of society as a whole”.

By the terms of the documents, primary responsibility for implementing the Madrid Plan of Action lies with governments, but their partnerships with civil society, the private sector and older persons themselves are also stressed, as well as international cooperation on ageing. National and international follow-up measures should start with mainstreaming ageing and the concerns of older persons into national development frameworks. 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 their GNP to least developed countries.

Summing up the work of the Assembly, its President Ex Officio, Juan Jose Lucas, Minister of the Presidency of the Government of Spain, emphasized the link between the past, the present and the future that older persons represented. The Plan of Action was more than just a catalogue of good intentions -- it was a framework of development and combating poverty, which emphasized the importance of active ageing, of inter-generational solidarity and the necessity of helping developing countries.

The Assembly was an important advance on the issue of ageing, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai said. A clear, loud statement had been made that ageing was not a problem, but an achievement. The demographic challenge of the century, in both developed and developing countries, had been established. The same effort was needed in putting ageing policies at the top of the agenda.

Closing statement was also made by the Chairman of the Main Committee, Felipe Paolillo (Uruguay). Representatives of Canada, United States, Norway and Egypt made short comments on the adopted texts.

During the general exchange of views prior to action on the outcome documents, statements were made by Ministers from the Philippines and Sierra Leone, as well as by representatives of Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Portugal, Iraq, Panama, Botswana and Rwanda. The observer for Puerto Rico and the President of the Economic Social Council of Spain and Coordinator of the Dialogues 2020 also spoke.

A total of 173 speakers took the floor in the five-day general exchange of views in the Assembly’s plenary, including 142 government delegations, four representatives of the United Nations family, 17 non-governmental organizations, five intergovernmental organizations, two United Nations intergovernmental bodies, two observers (Palestine and Puerto Rico), and one speaker reporting on the Valencia Forum. Four heads of State and government, one vice-president and
48 ministers attended the Assembly.

General Exchange of Views

NASYROVA ANARA (Kyrgyzstan): In Kyrgyzstan, the consequences of opening its borders has been negative on its economy and society, affecting the whole population. A national programme to overcome poverty and another on older care have been adopted. In my country, 9 per cent of the population is over the age of 60. Gender problems are particularly serious, complicated by the longer life expectancy of women.

The family is a traditional three-generation one, with care of the household carried out by women. In the area of improving the health of older persons, funds for medicines are available, as well as for constant follow-up by doctors. Protection of pensions has been ensured through taxes. One of the main sources of income for older persons are pension funds, which are not very large. Women can retire five years earlier then men. The State is responsible for a large part of the pensions system. There are various services delivered to homes, such as food and medicines, to protect lonely and older citizens. Generally, that is financed through the State budget, but there have also been private contributions.

Underemployed women tend to suffer more, and this is reflected in households with pensioners. We have 26,000 citizens who benefit from home care. There are also nursing homes for older persons and the disabled. The spiritual needs of people cannot be satisfied by mere funds. The Kyrgyz older persons are held in high esteem in their home. At about 50, the person becomes a subject of universal respect, as they become a source of knowledge.

CORAZON JULIANO SOLIMAN, Minster of Social Welfare of the Philippines: The Philippines has a relatively young population. As of 2000, older persons represent 5.5 per cent of the population. That percentage is expected to rise to 10.4 per cent by 2025. Recognizing the seriousness of this challenge, we have made great strides in enhancing the well-being of older persons while promoting their positive contribution to society. Guided by the Vienna Plan of Action and the Macao Plan of Action on Ageing for Asia and the Pacific, the Philippine Plan of Action was adopted in 1999. It addresses the areas of: older persons and the family; the social position of older persons; health and nutrition; housing, transportation and the environment; income security; social services; continuing education; and older persons and the market.

The Philippines continues to make inroads towards strengthening the role of older persons in the family and promoting inter-generational solidarity. Despite the progress made, five areas continue to be critical: the need to empower communities of older persons; understanding issues and implications that population ageing brings to society; preparation of the population for an ageing process that is both satisfying and productive for an individual; development of a service infrastructure and environment based on both traditional and modern institutions; and the delivery of social services needed by the growing number of older persons. To respond to these concerns, databases are being developed, gerontology centres established and issues of the rights and urgent needs of specific target groups, such as older persons in the informal sector, are being addressed.

We must take care that no country is marginalized from the benefits of social and economic development. When all countries, especially developing countries are able to provide for the basic human needs of their people, than a better quality of life will be ensured for older persons. We urge developed countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts toward the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP as ODA.

ABDULHAMID ASSEID ZENTANI (Libya): Older persons in Libya represent only 6 per cent of the population, whereas the productive group represents 50 per cent. There are a number of institutions to care for older persons. To that end, a solidarity fund has been established. Older persons enjoy many benefits, such as old-age pensions. There is also a pension for disability, as well as other emoluments for families. There is also the benefit of free health services and housing assistance. Older persons travel on half fare and do not have to pay instalments on loans to buy their houses. Electricity and water services are free of charge.

We do not view the problem we are discussing today only in terms of an increase in the number of the aged. We also see it through the causes which have led to a disruption in the demographic composition of the population, the main factor in which is family planning and the encouragement of abortion. We believe that family planning and limiting the number of its members should be left to individual societies to decide, according to their circumstances and options, and not through the imposition or importation of ready-made solutions. Libya adheres to its spiritual and moral values that treat older persons with respect.

We seize this opportunity to condemn all actions of terrorism and extremism, as well as terrorism carried out by some States. We underline the rights of victims of occupation to resist. In this regard, we think of the valiant Palestinian people, which continue to endure barbarism and massacres. We call for the lifting of the embargo against Iraq and respect for its territorial integrity, and for a halt to the threats to that country. We also call for an end to the measures imposed on Libya and the right to compensation for the material losses the country has endured because of them.

SHIRLEY YEMA GBUJAMA, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs of Sierra Leone: The current life expectancy in my country is 39 years. Ageing, therefore, may not seem to be an issue for us. However, I personally know at least 50 to 60 people in our country who are over 80 years of age, and have about six close friends and family who are between 80 and 100 years.

In recognition of the International Year of the Aged in 1984, our Government adopted the “Primary Health Care” policy as a strategy for providing health-care programmes to the population, including the aged. The well-being of the ageing is fundamentally a product of their previous health and education. Therefore, life-long heath care and education, starting with young people, is vital. The Programme allows the elderly to live in their own family and community as long as possible instead of being excluded and cut off from all societal activities in homes.

Most recently, the Government has encouraged and instituted measures for free primary education, and a social security scheme that will ensure a smooth and gradual transition from active working life to retirement. We have also made the pension entitlement age more flexible -- 55 to 60 years. All that is required is that the employer contributes 10 per cent and the beneficiary 5 per cent. This will help improve the standard of living for older persons in the future.

The ageing must be assisted now so that when they reach old age they will be productive. Old age is too often a time of lonely sadness, when it should be a time for service and continued self-development. In considering care for the aged, one should remember that individual needs and capacities are infinitely limited. But one thing is certain -- the problems facing an elderly person who enjoys good health and a relatively active life differ radically from those facing a person who may be immobile, ill and utterly lonely.

ROSALYN HAZELLE, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development of Saint Kitts and Nevis: With advances in modern medicine and improved standards of living, people are living a lot longer. The proportion of the world’s population over 60 has increased rapidly. Reports have indicated that among developing regions, the Caribbean has the highest percentage of older persons. In Saint Kitts and Nevis, persons over 65 years accounted for 8.9 per cent of our small population of about 42,000 in 2000.

As a result of globalization and the changes it brings, we have concluded several social and economic assessments. A feasibility study of the sugar industry and the impact the closure of this industry would have on 15 per cent of the island’s work force has revealed that many of our older women are workers in that industry and are poor. The closure of the sugar industry, therefore, would have a tremendous effect on our older population, especially women.

We believe that no one should be subjected to poor nutrition or sub-standard living conditions. We have set up several social safety-net programmes to address this issue. In keeping with our commitment to ensure access to basic social services, older persons in Saint Kitts and Nevis are provided with universal health care, including free prescription medicines, hospitalization, laboratory tests, and eye and dental care. Health centres and community health professionals are strategically placed in our villages.

Family care is the ideal survival strategy for our older persons and should be encouraged and supported as far as possible. We recognize that many external forces, such as migration, changes in family structure and a relatively young population have contributed to the erosion of our extended family systems. Our programmes for the older persons, therefore, seek to encourage the involvement of youth.

FRANCISCO RIBEIRO TELLES (Portugal): According to the provisional results of the 2001 census, the total resident population of Portugal is about 10.5 million persons, of which 1.7 million are aged 65 or over. The proportion of older women, 18.4 per cent, is higher than that of older men, 14.3 per cent. There are about 103 older persons aged 65 and over per 100 young persons, under 15 years old.

The Portuguese system for old age, disability and survivors’ pensions has a predominantly publicly run pillar for private-sector workers and civil servants, and an increasingly important voluntary pillar of pension funds managed by authorized life insurance and pension fund companies. The social pension, a flat benefit for older persons of low income, is also important in our social protection system. We are aware that a longer working career is important in improving the quality of life in an increased lifespan, and that is why Portuguese pensions favour workers who remain longer in the labour market.

Older persons live in family settings -- over 30 per cent of Portuguese families have at least one member aged 65 or over. Fifteen per cent of families are exclusively composed of older persons and a considerable number -- about 2.5 per cent of the total population -- lives alone. Our main concern in social service provision is to maintain older persons in their normal habitat and environment for as long as possible with support services, such as home help, and day-care and recreation centres.

FADIL NAJIM AL-DEEN (Iraq): Older persons in Iraq benefit from decent services from the State on the basis of the principles of Islam and the Baath Party. Many laws have been adopted, preserving the dignity and respect of older persons and guaranteeing them a decent life. Human beings are precious in Iraq. The Government is working hard to meet their needs. Social health, transport and material support, such as pensions, are available to older persons, provided by the State, although the social fabric provides for families to take care of older persons as well. Legislation is in preparation to require children to take care of their elders. A national committee for older persons has been set up which draws up plans and programmes to set up services for older persons. It also organizes symposiums to underscore the role of the elderly in society.

The care provided by the State and society has been seriously affected by the continuous aggression against Iraq. The sanctions imposed by Security Council resolution 661 of 1990 have been one of the most serious humanitarian disasters of the last century. It is a crime of genocide. Iraq has fulfilled all its commitment under resolution 661 and subsequent resolutions. Despite all that, the embargo still continues. We are experiencing deaths and the spread of disease because of severe food shortages and medicines -- particularly for chronic diseases -- as well as supplies such as glasses and wheelchairs for the elderly. Thus, the services the State provides have been severely hampered.

The “oil-for-food” programme falls short in its objectives. It is limited in scope and many contracts have been put on hold, in particular contracts for medical supplies, for inexplicable reasons. Older persons in Iraq suffer from the injustice of the embargo. I call on you to intervene to put an end to the embargo. The situation facing the Palestinian people under occupation is reprehensible and contrary to international instruments and resolutions. This is a great shame. The only crime the Palestinian people have committed is to pursue their rights. We call on you to put an end to this and call for an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. We also demand a speedy intervention to end the occupation of the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon.

ZULEMA SUCRE (Panama): Over several decades, we have attached great importance to the demographic make-up of our population and have tried to raise the level of social well-being. Through various political and legal bodies, we have adopted policies and activities to improve life for older persons. We have made progress in comprehensive care for males and females, although many are still living in extreme poverty.

The issue of ageing is not an easy or short-term matter. The National Council on Older Persons has been established in Panama to consult and plan strategies to assist older persons. It promotes programmes and activities to ensure active ageing. A plan of action with four strategies has been developed.

The first strategy is to develop long-term policies for ageing which would ensure social protection, improve services for older persons, increase research into ageing issues with a gender-based approach and strengthen educational services guaranteeing life-long learning. The second strategy is to create approaches through review and analysis of existing policies, which would ensure older persons autonomy and decision-making abilities. Encouraging organizations of older persons is also key to their overall development.

The third strategy is to improve health and well-being in old age through a review of existing health programmes, focusing on health and prevention. We are focusing on the improvement of health and sanitation in the family and community. This plan intends to strengthen the role of the family. The fourth strategy seeks to ensure a propitious environment for older people through public policies to eliminate architectural barriers, carry out training programmes, ensure minimum financial security, especially for older persons who have no pension.

PHOLILE LEGWAILA (Botswana): I concur with the view of several delegations that elderly people are perceived as senior citizens who have experience and wisdom that should earn them respect. Older persons, particularly in developing countries, need to be encouraged to participate in labour markets because of the limited coverage of retirement schemes. In most cases, older persons are advised or instructed to leave their formal jobs and retire while they are still active. That can be devastating.

Although Botswana at present has no specific policy for the elderly, social programmes do exist. The destitute programme enables the elderly to get an allowance if there is no income. Supplementary feeding is also provided by clinics, and health care is virtually free. Another government programme is the Old-Age Pension Scheme. HIV/AIDS will kill more than half of the young adults in most countries in the southern African region -- Botswana included. Indeed, the majority of young adults in my country have been dying from the disease, leaving the elderly to take care of their offspring, a burden largely borne by old women.

Like in other developing countries, the ageing process has brought along a threat to household food security, as many older persons are engaged in subsistence agricultural activities. The same old people are unable to provide food for the household since they have to take care of children dying from AIDS. Since independence in 1966, life expectancy increased from 47 to 67 years, but this is expected to fall back to 47 years by 2020 due to HIV/AIDS. Migration has also played a part in population ageing in Botswana. The young members of households migrate in search of employment and schooling opportunities. This means that the older persons, particularly in the villages, are left with the responsibility of again taking care of the children

NSANZABAGANWA STRATON (Rwanda): We would like to stress that ageing concerns all age groups. We are committed to building a society where all generations cooperate in building lasting human development.

In its reconstruction efforts, Rwanda has committed itself to developing a national policy on ageing for older persons with two major goals -- to help all strata of society to prepare for ageing and to ensure older persons enjoy the same rights as other ages. Within our local administration and the Social Affairs Ministry, we have created programmes to increase awareness for the specific needs of older persons, create structures to protect them, train qualified social staff to give assistance to vulnerable groups, and to extend social security to all.

The problems of ageing, especially in least developed countries, must be integrated into a sustainable human development programme, with poverty alleviation as its cornerstone. No country can find a solution to these problems without help from the international community. We propose that the United Nations set up an international legal framework specifically for older persons, modelled on the Convention on the Rights of Child, and also create an international institution for older persons, modelled on the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

ROSSANA LOPEZ, observer for Puerto Rico: In the free associated state of Puerto Rico, 15.4 per cent of the population was 60 years or older in 2000. For 2010, that percentage will be 17 per cent. Sustaining the development of an ageing world is closely related to a social system to provide nutritional and economic assistance for the poor. We have adopted strategies to address the poverty of the elderly.

The rapidly increasing number of elderly has forced us to address dependence by adopting strategies to encourage a productive old age. Strategies to avoid dependence also involve volunteer work. Databases in that regard are being set up. The change in the population structure leads to a clash of generations. The promotion of inter-generational solidarity programmes is, therefore, also important. The country is also creating a school curriculum on ageing for secondary school students to change the image of older people. That will be linked to legislative measures providing for budgetary regulations to assist older persons.

The well-being of older persons also depends on health. In that regard, there has been a revolution in health care, including work on a preventive health strategy. That strategy must take into account availability and accessibility. Concerns for the well-being of the older population have led to programmes of vaccination, HIV/AIDS education, health clinics, nutrition education and others. However, the limited accessibility to health services in geriatric medicine has been a constraint. This is being addressed through transportation programmes.

JAIME MONTALVO CORREA, President of the Economic and Social Council of Spain and Coordinator of the Dialogues 2020: Population ageing is a fundamental fact defining current society, raising challenges in all fields and requiring the participation of all. Dialogues 2020 has carried out various dialogues on ageing, and what I am about to say will be a summary of those.

Longer life expectancy is a great phenomenon of our society. All must work together to create an active model of ageing. It will be necessary to devote more resources to older persons as health expenditures grow. The Ageing Research Agency for the Twenty-first Century has outlined priorities in focusing on the problems of ageing. These include the poverty-health relationship, the socio-economic link to ageing, possibilities of reducing dependency and discrimination for all ages and social protection.

In generating solutions to the issues of ageing, the public sector must cooperate with the private. Also, ageing policies must be developed with the close cooperation of civil society and non-governmental organizations in the field. Productive ageing may be a matter of economics, especially in developing countries, where circumstances such as foreign debt turn this into a challenge.

Older persons must play an active role in the consolidation of their rights. We must change our social perception of retirement. A society for all ages must create a healthy, functional attractive environment for all groups to maintain the status of older persons as fully fledged citizens. The family must continue to be an essential institution as the mainstay of formal support.


The Assembly then turned to the report of the Credentials Committee, contained in document A/CONF.197/6, and adopted -- without a vote --the draft resolution entitled “Credentials of representatives to the Assembly”, by which it approved that report.

The Assembly took up consideration of the report of the Main Committee contained in document A/CONF.197/8 and of document A/CONF.197/MC/L.2 by which the Main Committee recommended the adoption of the Political Declaration and of the International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002.

The Rapporteur of the Main Committee, IVANA GROLLOVA (Czech Republic), said the Main Committee had held a number of informal consultations, divided between two working groups, with a view to finalizing the Plan of Action and the Political Declaration. She then introduced some changes to the report including those in Addenda 5 and 8 of A/CONF.197/MC/L.1, where the term “palliative care” appears, where there should be a footnote giving the definition of palliative care, based on that of the World Health Organization (WHO). She further indicated some minor corrections in the addenda to the report.

The representative of Egypt pointed out a typographical error. The beginning of the sentence in the footnote should read “Palliative care’s definition based on WHO is ...”.

The Rapporteur accepted the correction.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the Political Declaration and the International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002, as orally amended.


The representative of Canada said he welcomed the content of both the International Plan of Action and the Political Declaration. They would be very useful as countries prepared to meet the challenges of ageing populations. But there were two comments he wished to make -- on the right to development and the situation of displaced persons.

Canada supported the right to development, which was interrelated with other rights. However, it did not replace them or have any prominence over them. He failed to see why it had been given prominence in a document on ageing.

He also regretted that language on the internally displaced did not articulate actions which could be taken to help those displaced. The internally displaced were among the most vulnerable groups in need of assistance. He regretted that agreement could not be reached about guiding principles on internal displacement. Such inconsistency in United Nations forums would impede the Organization in developing coherent policies and programmes.

The representative of the United States said her delegation was pleased with the adopted documents as they reflected her Government’s political commitment to address the needs of the ageing persons around the world. However, the United States regretted that the language of the Plan of Action on internally displaced persons did not reflect the language agreed on by consensus in all other forums during the past year. The Plan of Action should have set forth the actions that could be taken to help internally displaced older persons, including both the responsibilities of national authorities towards their own citizens, as well as the supporting role that could be played by the international community. It was critical that there were no impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. She interpreted the reference to “General Assembly resolutions” in the paragraph on internally displaced persons to refer to the recent consensus General Assembly resolution 56/104.

She also emphasized that the United States understood that the text in the Plan of Action drawn from the Doha Declaration, pertaining to intellectual property protection and access to medicines, applied only to governments that were members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay), Chairman of the Main Committee, said that he was very pleased with the outcome of the Assembly. His joy was somewhat cautious, however, because the decisions marked a new phase in dealing with individual and global ageing. The documents represented the culmination of the negotiating process. Now it was necessary to begin the process of effective implementation of the decisions to improve the situation of older people all over the world. He hoped the implementation would be achieved through coordinated action of governments, international organizations and civil society. It was noteworthy that most of the people who had participated in the drafting process belonged to the younger generation. It had been essential to achieve a useful plan, and he had found great sensitivity to the problems of the older persons in the drafting process.

The representative of Norway said that he wanted to return to the issue of the Plan of Action. As far as its paragraph on the internally displaced persons was concerned, it contained reference to a recent General Assembly resolution on the matter. That text contained important guiding principles on the matter and should be the point of reference in that respect.

Short closing statements of appreciation were made by the representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Bahrain, Angola (on behalf of the African Group) and Benin (on behalf of the least developed countries).


The Assembly then took up the report of the Assembly, contained in document A/CONF.197/L.2, introduced by Rapporteur-General Antoine Mifsud Bonnici (Malta), who also pointed out some technical omissions in the report.

It adopted the draft report and authorized the Rapporteur-General to finalize the report in cooperation with the Secretariat.

The Assembly then turned its attention to a draft resolution contained in document A/CONF.197/L.3, introduced by the representative of Venezuela on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, entitled “Expression of thanks to the people and Government of Spain”, by which the Assembly expressed its deep appreciation to Jose Maria Asnar, President of the Government of Spain, for his outstanding contribution as President of the Second World Assembly on Ageing to the successful outcome of the Conference. It further expressed its profound gratitude to the Government of Spain for the excellent facilities, services and staff placed at the Assembly’s disposal. By the resolution, the Assembly decided that the International Plan of Action on Ageing should be entitled “Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing”.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution.

NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that what had been accomplished by the Assembly was an important advance on the issue of ageing. A clear, loud statement had been made that ageing was not a problem, but an achievement. The demographic challenge of the century, in both developed and developing countries, had been established. The same effort was needed in putting ageing policies at the top of the agenda.

He noted that developing countries attached great importance to ageing, which must be seen in the context of development. The Assembly had stressed the mainstreaming of ageing in all areas of policy, and even emphasized age in tragic situations like HIV/AIDS. All were vital steps forward.

A powerful and important programme for action had been created. There was definitely a desire to help developing countries with ageing issues. He hoped non-governmental organizations would maintain pressure on governments to focus in depth on ageing issues. A “senior watch” was now needed to ensure that the Plan was implemented.

Closing of Assembly

The Assembly’s President-ex officio, LUCAS JIMENEZ (Spain), thanked all delegates for their attendance and for efforts. He said in the opening of the Assembly, reference had been made to the importance of the link between the past, the present and the future that older persons represented. The problem was not to get old, that was inevitable, but to be capable to facilitate life for older persons with kindness and respect.

Old age was not often seen as an enviable situation, with loss of capabilities and loss of a role in society, he said. It was crucial to change that image of ageing. There was also a challenge to provide the necessary services to older persons. The ultimate challenge was to build a society for all ages taking into account the needs of all. During the Assembly, the challenge had been the adoption of the Plan of Action which incorporated ageing in a framework of development and combating poverty, and that emphasized the importance of active ageing, of inter-generational solidarity and the necessity of helping developing countries.

In conclusion, he thanked all for continuing to search for solutions to the problems raised and conveyed to the Assembly the feeling of pride of President Asnar for having participated in the Assembly.

Summary of Outcome Documents

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 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 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 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 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”.

For further information, please go to the Assembly’s Web site at

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