Press Releases

    SOC/4606
    9 April 2002

    UN BODIES ADDRESS AGEING ASSEMBLY’S
    MAIN COMMITTEE

    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    NEW YORK, 8 April (UN Headquarters) -- Six United Nations bodies addressed the Main Committee of the Second World Assembly on Ageing this afternoon, presenting their views and reporting on the relevant experiences on the ageing of the world population.

    The representative of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women presented its contribution to the work of the Assembly, highlighting the situation of older women. The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) described the main directions of its work, and regional experiences were presented by the representatives of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

    Working parallel to the plenary, the Committee is charged with finalizing work on the International Plan of Action, 2002, and the Political Declaration, which are to be adopted at the closing of the Assembly. As the outcome documents are to be presented to the plenary in all six official languages, the Main Committee is scheduled to conclude its work on Thursday, 11 April.

    Committee Chairman Felipe Paolillo of Uruguay said that the Preparatory Committee had not reached complete agreement on the draft outcome texts. The draft documents had been presented to the Committee as part of the Preparatory Committee’s report, which had been adopted at the conclusion of its last session on 1 March. Those documents represented the basis of negotiations for the Conference. Also before the Committee were the results of further negotiations, which had lasted through the end of March. In addition, the Committee would have before it a short text, representing supplementary negotiations in New York last Wednesday.

    In order to make maximum use of the time remaining, the Committee decided to work on the documents simultaneously in two working groups. Working Group I would consider the International Plan of Action, and Work Group II, the draft Political Declaration.

    During the organizational part of the meeting, the Committee also elected Aicha Afifi of Morocco, Maria Jose Carrilho of Portugal, and Ivana Grollova of the Czech Republic as its Vice-Chairpersons. Ms. Grollova will also serve as the Committee’s Rapporteur.

    Statements

    The representative of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said that, at the conclusion of its January-February session this year, the Committee had adopted a document, which was intended as its contribution to the Second World Assembly on Ageing. Welcoming the convening of the Assembly, the Committee -- a treaty body entrusted with monitoring the implementation of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- highlighted the situation of older women and pointed out that discrimination against women in all areas of their lives throughout their life span had a severe and compounded impact on women in old age.

    The Committee had recommended action to address the situation of older women living in poverty, particularly in rural areas; to address their physical, financial and emotional needs; and to improve older women’s access to health care, she said. The Committee, therefore, urged States parties to the Convention to include and integrate women’s perspectives into all aspects of the proposed international strategies for action on ageing. It placed strong emphasis on such issues as the collection of statistical data, disaggregated by sex and age, as a way to better assess living conditions of women; their education and improving of literacy levels; and career

    patterns. The Committee recommended, in particular, that the issue of the care required for older women be addressed through public policy measures in order to establish social responsibility for their well-being.

    The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) representative said that cities and towns around the world would have more and more older people with specific needs. The main concepts in the context of human settlements were those of inclusive cities, active ageing and ageing in place. The Habitat Agenda described inclusive cities and equitable human settlements as those in which all people, including older persons, had equal access to housing, health facilities and social services. Active ageing implied that as people grew older, their capacities should be increased so that they could remain productive members of society. Ageing in place favoured enabling older persons to remain in their own homes as long as possible and avoiding institutional settings.

    The UN-Habitat had long included the issue of ageing and older persons among its diverse activities and continued to work on awareness-raising, conceptual development and searching for ways to address the needs of older persons effectively, he said. In conclusion, he brought to the attention of the Assembly UN-Habitat’s "Secure Tenure" and "Urban Governance" campaigns aimed at promotion of security of housing and good urban governance around the world.

    A representative of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said that the region encompassed some 60 per cent of the world’s population and a large portion of its ageing population. The Commission shared the three main priorities identified for the Assembly’s Plan of Action, and attaching particular importance to the elimination of poverty and development. Older people were often among the poorest groups of society, finding themselves without social protection and medical help. Poverty-reduction programmes should take into account the needs of older people, in particular, women.

    Although the family in Asia remained the principal provider of care for the elderly, it should receive assistance from the State. The situation of the family received attention during recent meetings held by ESCAP in preparation for the Second World Assembly. A regional plan of action had been recently adopted in Macao, which addressed, in particular the issue of social inclusion of the older persons.

    The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) representative pointed out that the Commission continued to attach great importance to the problem of ageing. In the next 50 years, the population of Latin America would increase by more than 65 million people, with some 41 million people over the age of 60. For that reason, it was necessary to create a society for all ages. It was also important to create an environment favourable to the older people, creating social conditions and building infrastructure to meet their needs. The ECLAC had undertaken a series of regional consultations to present the views of its countries to the Assembly. Once the Plan of Action had been adopted, a regional meeting was planned in order to discuss the regional strategy on the implementation of its outcome.

    The representative of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said that belonging to the region most affected by profound demographic change, ECE countries had been in the vanguard of the policy responses and institutional reforms to manage the process of population ageing. Europe had been one of the regions to lead the way towards the "graying society", and it could present a success story to the world in that respect. Perhaps, for the first time in history, most people in Europe could look towards old age not with trepidation about their economic circumstances, but with hope. Attention focused on such issues as ensuring sustainable income security in old age, strengthening of public systems and protection of vulnerable groups.

    The Commission was currently engaged in a process, which, on one the hand, had contributed to the Madrid Assembly, and, on the other, would result in the adoption of a regional implementation strategy for the Plan of Action to be adopted here. The high point of that process would be the ministerial conference on ageing, to be held in Berlin next September in order to formulate policy responses to the current challenges. Among the priority issues were social protection systems, pension schemes, health care and gender equality.

    A representative of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said that older people constituted a cultural heritage of most countries. At the same time, they, unfortunately, also remained one of the most vulnerable groups of society. In Arab countries, they were treated with utmost respect, and up to 92 per cent of older people remained with their families. Only 8 per cent of the ageing population received institutional care.

    The Arab world was undergoing significant demographic changes, however, which had prompted the countries of the region to adopt a plan of action on the problem of ageing. Among its priorities were the improvement of the living conditions of older persons, the right to better standards of living, and human dignity. The plan was based on a holistic approach, which was based on moral, religious and cultural values of the region. Among its measures were those aimed at strengthening the family relations and promulgating legislation, which would promote maintaining older people within their families.

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