Press Releases

    SOC/4611
    10 April 2002

    SPEAKERS STRESS NEED TO REINFORCE TRADITIONAL
    FAMILY SUPPORT FOR ELDERLY, MORE AID IN AFTERNOON PLENARY AT AGEING ASSEMBLY IN MADRID

    Positive Image of Ageing Urged to Ensure Society for All

    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    NEW YORK, 9 April (UN Headquarters) -- Programmes for ageing cannot be successful unless they are supported by the values and traditions of the nation, Falah Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Minister of Public Administration and Finance of Qatar, told the Second World Assembly on Ageing this afternoon as it continued its general exchange of views.

    Cultural background, behaviour, values and national motivation should be taken into account. As a pioneer in fulfilling the security of ageing by sponsoring the older person within the family environment with the financial and spiritual support it needs, Qatar believes that the family is the foundation of society, he said.

    Among a number of speakers stressing the importance of family support for the elderly, the Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office of Thailand, Krasae Chanawongse, warned that although the problem of taking care of older persons had been traditionally resolved within the family, the children of today might not be in a position to attend to the needs of older persons in the future. Among the factors that undermine their capacity were industrialization, urbanization, migration, socio-economic development, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. Hence, it was incumbent upon government and society to lend them a helping hand. Among priority areas of action was the need to reverse the negative views on ageing. In creating a society for all ages, mainstreaming ageing into the global agenda is essential to bring about an inclusive society.

    Addressing the image of ageing in Western societies, Norway’s Minister of Social Affairs, Ingjerd Schou, said there was a vicious circle. Young and middle-aged persons often had a false picture of frail elderly people, and expected them to retire from work. But most people reaching pension age were far from frail. They ought to be expected to lead active social and political lives and to continue to be working beyond retirement age. On the other hand, many old people also developed disabilities such as decreased mobility, eyesight and hearing. It was of the utmost importance that the Plan of Action give sound advice on those matters.

    Likewise, Paulette Guinchard-Kunstler, Secretary of State for Senior Citizens of France, stressed the need for a collective commitment to prevent setting aside their older citizens on the pretext that they are less productive.

    "We should together encourage a simple, strong ideal: to guarantee the dignity of all senior citizens", she said. It was necessary to break away from the absurd and highly negative image of human existence in which a man’s worth has been established solely on the basis of his productive capacity, resulting in a social vacuum as soon as the age for professional work had passed. The essential solidarity between generations had to be reaffirmed in order to prevent an "age war".

    Indonesia’s Minister for Social Affairs, Bachtiar Chamsyah, drew attention to the problems of developing countries, which were lacking in social insurance and security systems, relying heavily on family support structures, and having to implement programmes within limited resources. It was crucial that the international community provided the necessary financial and technical support to implement programmes for the benefit for all older persons. The Plan of Action adopted in this Assembly should explicitly address commitments to assist developing countries, he said.

    Many statements elaborated on the national measures for the advancement of the elderly people and described national programmes, challenges and demographic trends.

    The representatives of Yemen and Kuwait expressed serious concern about the situation of the elderly Palestinian people.

    Other speakers this afternoon included Ministers from Sweden, Luxembourg, Australia, Cyprus, Peru and Romania, as well as a Vice-Minister from the Republic of Korea. The Leader of the Government in the Senate from Canada also addressed the Assembly, as did the representatives of Madagascar, Chile and Benin.

    The Second World Assembly on Ageing will continue its general exchange of view at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 10 April.

    Statements

    BACHTIAR CHAMSYAH, Minister for Social Affairs of Indonesia: For developing countries, where a majority of the world’s older persons already live, the implications for future sustainable development are acute. It is therefore important to fully implement the outcome of all major United Nations conferences and summits, including the outcome of the Millennium Summit and the recently convened International Conference on Financing for Development. These conferences aim, among other things, at eradicating poverty and creating employment opportunities for young and old alike, as well as strengthening social integration in all countries. It is therefore important to integrate the process of global ageing within the larger process of development.

    In Indonesia, older persons constitute 7.4 per cent of the total population of more than 200 million. According to forecasts, by 2010 that percentage will increase to 9.6 per cent. In order to ensure the implementation of the promotion of the status of older persons, the Government has enacted a law on welfare for the elderly. Under that law, various national programmes have been set up and implemented in the areas of social welfare, health services, social assistance and social security. The Government remains fully committed to pursuing effective policies and programmes for older persons that are consistent with a society for all ages and within the framework of the new Plan of Action.

    I would like to draw the Assembly’s attention to the problems of developing countries, lacking in social insurance and security systems, relying heavily on family support structures and having to implement programmes within limited resources. It is crucial that the international community provide the necessary financial and technical support to implement programmes for the benefit of all older persons. Let there be no doubt that we are committed to the notion that older persons are not merely a vulnerable group that must be protected. They are a vital resource that can contribute to their own and to national development. We require a collective approach to meet the needs of older persons and to address global ageing. Therefore, the Plan of Action adopted in this Assembly should explicitly address commitments to assist developing countries.

    LARS ENGQVIST, Minister for Health and Social Affairs of Sweden: Many believe that the most significant change in our society has been brought about by the information technology revolution. Others think that globalization is the most important change confronting modern man. However, I believe an equally important or even more significant change is the age revolution. Average life expectancy has been extended by 25 years during the twentieth century, which has fundamentally altered our lives, hopes, longings, relationships and sense of community. Our entire society is being transformed into something quite different now that one third of one’s life remains when one is 65.

    While we are relatively well prepared for the information technology revolution and globalization, we appear quite unprepared for the age revolution. Our labour market segregates and discards older people, our culture is directed at young people and our entire democratic system seems to be based on older people being passive observers. We must come to grips with prejudices, breakaway from traditional views of older people and ensure they enjoy full human rights. Gender aspects of ageing and the situation of older women need to be given particular attention.

    Older persons need a secure financial situation, with universal welfare policies forming the basis for this security, in order to take part in society. Pension systems must also be reliable. Elderly people should be included in political assemblies at all levels of society. We must make an effort to reverse the trend that has led to the taste and opinions of young and middle-aged people totally dominating cultural life and public debate.

    The transition from working life to retirement needs to be facilitated. Many want to carry on working, but at a lower tempo. One of the Government’s most important political tasks is to guarantee good care of the elderly. Resources are vital in providing good services for the care of older persons. Individual need should be the criterion, rather than the financial situation. This is fundamental to welfare policy. It means an enormous challenge for our ageing society in Sweden, where some 13 per cent of the entire population will be over the age of 80 within 25 years.

    MARIE-JOSEE JACOBS, Minister of Family, Social Solidarity and Youth of Luxembourg: Among the priorities emerging in connection with the phenomenon of ageing are access to all-important medical services, recognition and development of resources and respect for human dignity. We are all afraid of growing old. Some identify old age with lack of mobility, pessimism and gloom. However, it is heartening that 4 out of 5 persons at the age of 80 today remain active. Free from professional obligations and healthy, older people are now able to enjoy many years of productive life. To respond to their needs, in Luxembourg, a system of clubs for older people has been developed, which offers people over 50 diverse activities, including dinners, gymnastics and lectures.

    It is important for older people to keep acquiring new skills, take an interest in life and remain in contact with other generations. It is also necessary to avoid being locked in the golden cage of consumption. Among the mechanisms existing in my country is a council for older persons and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which address their problems. The important role of neighbourhood associations should be stressed, which facilitate inter-generational contacts. Taking advantage of skills and abilities of older people is also important.

    I know that the organization of care for older people undoubtedly represents a serious concern. In Luxembourg, as in several neighbouring countries, the Government is establishing much-needed services. In cooperation with the national association for Alzheimer’s, I am taking part in efforts to alleviate the situation of the people affected by the disease. Guardianship and provisions for the end of life are part of the legislation considered in the country. Another problem is that we are finding it difficult to recruit a sufficient number of competent staff to take care of the elderly, and vocational training in geriatrics and palliative care are of great importance in this respect.

    KRASAE CHANAWONGSE, Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office of Thailand: Thailand is expected to graduate into an ageing society within the next 10 years. Although the problem of taking care of older persons has been traditionally resolved within the family, the children of today may not be in a position to attend to the needs of older persons in the future. Among the factors that undermine their capacity are industrialization, urbanization, migration, socio-economic development, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. Hence, it is incumbent upon the Government and society to lend them a helping hand. Thailand is in the process of preparing a second national long-term plan on ageing, addressing all aspects of the phenomenon.

    The emerging demographic pattern should not be perceived in terms of numbers and statistics alone. Behind the pattern are real people, and the approach taken should rely on holistic perspectives, taking into account all obstacles, challenges, resources and capital. Countries should aim to prepare their citizens for a healthy life, with independence, security and social participation. Among priority areas of action is the need to reverse the negative views on ageing. A campaign for a paradigm shift on ageing will be of paramount importance to move the issue ahead. In creating a society for all ages, mainstreaming ageing into the global agenda is essential to bring about an inclusive society.

    Thailand fully supports the outcome of the Asia and Pacific Regional Preparatory Consultations for the Assembly, which took place in Macao in September 2001. That meeting called for the expansion of the existing institutional capacity of the United Nations to address the challenges of ageing, and for the mainstreaming of ageing-related issues into the work of relevant United Nations agencies.

    SHARON CARSTAIRS, Leader of the Government in the Senate with Special Responsibility for Palliative Care of Canada: Canada has been a partner in addressing the ageing issues of the original International Plan, and its governments have helped Canadians improve their health and financial security in senior years. Canada has also supported the important role that older persons play in our society -- whether in the work place, volunteer organizations or within families and communities. For example, there has been a dramatic decline in poverty among Canada’s seniors over the last two decades, thanks largely to an effective mix of public and private retirement income programmes.

    Most Canadians live their later years in good health and expect to live long lives, with some of the highest life expectancy levels in the world -- 81.5 years for women and 76 years for men. Canadian seniors want to live those years as active participants. They have told us that dignity, independence, participation, fairness and security -- adapted from the United Nations Principles for Older Persons -- are extremely important. We have used these principles as the basis of our National Framework on Ageing.

    Canada’s priorities for seniors and the ageing population include: improving health, well-being and independence in later life; enhancing the participation of older Canadians in economic and social life; strengthening supportive environments for seniors; and sustaining Government programmes benefiting older Canadians. As the knowledge economy continues to develop and change, Canada remains committed to ensuring life-long learning for its citizens. Our Government recently launched a national Skills and Learning Agenda, which recognizes the need to renew skills at every age and stage of life, to benefit older person and ensure a strong and vibrant workforce today and in the future.

    FALAH BIN JASSIM BIN JABR AL-THANI, Minister of Public Administration and Finance of Qatar: As we realize the results and the social, economic and cultural aspects of the developing ageing population, especially in regard to work, productivity, saving rates, consumption and rates of independence, we have started creating scientific and practical programmes aimed at spreading social security for the older and younger persons. We did this by providing them with modern housing, free health care and educational services and by creating an environment for the older persons to participate in development.

    Our policy respects the United Nations principles and has put the country in the forefront of human development. Life expectancy in Qatar is about 72 years. A committee for older persons has been set up in the Supreme Council for Family Affairs. Qatar is a pioneer in fulfilling the security of ageing by sponsoring the older person within the family environment with the financial and spiritual support it needs.

    We believe that programmes cannot be successful unless they are supported by the values and traditions of the nation. Cultural background, behaviour, values and national motivation should be taken into account. We also believe that the family is the foundation of society. We call, therefore, for the protection of the family and for enhancing the relationship of the family within the mutual values of religion. We also call for international legal procedures within the framework of the United Nations to protect the family.

    KEVIN ANDREWS, Minister for Ageing of Australia: In common with many nations, we are on the threshold of a major population change. From this year, the post-second World War baby-boom generation will begin to enter retirement. By 2020, they will become the older aged generation -- the so-called "fourth age". At the same time, our fertility rate has fallen below replacement levels.

    Australia faces a series of challenges, including: a massive reduction in the number of new entrants to the workforce over the next two decades; a substantial increase in the number of people needing aged care; increasing pressure on careers and families, especially those with both dependent children and aged parents; and an ongoing need to encourage personal savings so that people who live longer will have adequate retirement income.

    The Australian Government launched a National Strategy for an Ageing Australia this year. It seeks to build on reforms of the past decade, especially in health and aged care, and to lay out a framework for developing future policies and programmes. The Strategy is built around the four themes of independence and self-provision, attitude, lifestyle and community support, healthy ageing and world-class care. It recognizes that all Australians, regardless of age, should have access to appropriate employment, training, education, housing, transport, cultural and recreational opportunities and care services. This year, Australia will outline another initiative directed at ageing -- the Mature Age Employment Strategy -- and introduce age discrimination legislation. We are expanding our community age care programme and developing extended nursing care in the home.

    ANDREAS MOUSHOUTTAS, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus: For the first time in the history of humankind, people live longer and healthier lives. In many countries of the world, it is now possible to be part of a four-generation family. Ageing requires that we rethink our institutions, policies, legislation and practices in order to make demographic changes work positively for the labour force, social protection and society as a whole.

    Although population ageing is not alarming in Cyprus, it is becoming visible. The well-being and care of older people has been a long-standing objective of the Government of Cyprus. We are firmly committed to safeguarding the right of older people to a decent standard of living, promoting their independence, and strengthening their family and community ties. Also important are solidarity between generations and participation of older people in the labour market. The Government’s actions include provision of subsidies to promote self-employment by older people, housing schemes and improvement of health-care services. The Government has been working for many years in partnership with communities and voluntary organizations.

    The wide diversity in the situation of older people, between and within countries, requires a variety of policy responses. Underpinning all policies, however, should be the idea that ageing is a lifelong process, which does not pertain exclusively to older persons. It is crucial to reject the prevailing perceptions of older people as a frail homogeneous group that is more needy and dependent than others. We must cultivate a positive view of old age that promotes social inclusion. We should also learn to recognize the needs, capabilities and worth of each individual, regardless of chronological age. If we achieve this, we will fulfil the International Plan’s call for people to be whatever they want, whatever their age.

    I will close with the words of Plato, the great Greek philosopher: "It gives me great pleasure to converse with the aged. They have been over the road that all of us must travel, and know where it is rough and difficult and where it is level and easy."

    CECILIA BLONDET, Minister for the Advancement of Women and Social Development of Peru: In Peru, a decade of autocratic government and a lack of democracy has plunged our country into crisis. Since the country began democratic reforms last year, however, poverty has occupied a central place on the agenda. Regrettably, that condition affects the lives of some 53 per cent of all Peruvians. We think that resolving the issues of ageing lies in policies to eradicate poverty -- improving life for all members of society without distinction. Poverty is the great enemy and the challenge is to improve the standard of living for all. We are anxious to begin changes in our country that will transform the future.

    Peruvian society is mainly young, but we are seeing a process of ageing which is giving rise to new social demands. Some 33.8 per cent of the population is currently below 15 years of age, 60 per cent is between 15 and 59 and 7.2 per cent is 60 years or more. According to official projections, the population above 60 will reach 12.6 per cent by the year 2025.

    Unfortunately, we have not been able to afford health care for all older people, which has mainly affected women and older persons in rural areas. One of the main focuses of the Government’s approach is to seek social equity, with a national plan of action for the elderly. Families would be responsible for the overall care of the elderly, according to the plan, which would promote direct participation.

    PAULETTE GUINCHARD-KUNSTLER, Secretary of State for Senior Citizens of France: Ageing is not a burden for those who age, as long as all the rights of senior citizens are respected. It is not a burden for society, but rather a chance for durable and harmonious development, as long as we know how to make the best use of the skills of ageing persons. We must take care of the conditions that permit access to health systems and quality care. Longevity is not an end in itself if one ages poorly. Prolonging life must not lead to two-speed ageing: one group having access to costly medicines and treatments and who age well because they are rich, and the other group who suffer ageing by living badly for a longer period.

    It is necessary to reaffirm the essential solidarity between generations and prevent an "age war". Solidarity among generations necessarily has an economic and financial component. It is also a culture that must inspire public policy, the behaviour of social partners and the behaviour of all citizens. To promote solidarity among generations, we must value that treasure held by every human being: his own history, the sum of experiences and memories that he wants to share, to transmit. It is this transmission that is the strongest link between the youngest and the oldest people. We must also foster the movement which is beginning to arise among senior citizens, namely making themselves available to others.

    We must change our outlook on old age and ageing. In most societies, a man’s worth has been established solely on the basis of his productive capacity, and as soon as the age for professional work has passed, that worth gives way to a social vacuum. We must break away from this absurd and highly negative image of human existence. We must therefore prevent age from becoming a factor for exclusion from the productive system. It is my conviction that the recommendations that appear at the end of the Plan of Action regarding the importance of creating national ageing committees in every country, with representatives from civil society, are a very important lever for building a society for all ages.

    LEE KYEONG-HO, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea: Today’s elderly are those who have dedicated their lives to the development of their societies and countries. Their generation made great sacrifices to causes far beyond their own personal welfare. We owe to them effective policies that will assist them in leading independent lives, allow them to find fulfillment, continue active participation in society and maintain human dignity. For those who need help, adequate protection should be provided.

    The Republic of Korea is an ageing society. Accordingly, my Government has been developing and implementing a number of policies for the elderly, designed to enhance their quality of life. The basic direction has been to provide for healthy and economically stable lives to the elderly through strengthening of the necessary infrastructures, which can support the care-giving role of the family. Among the national milestones has been the 1981 Older Persons’ Welfare Act and celebration of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999.

    Medical assistance to the elderly is incorporated into the country’s health insurance system. The elderly living in poverty are given subsidies for free medical care. A national pension system has been in place since 1988. The Government has steadily expanded public facilities to enable older persons to enjoy their lives, such as community centres for senior citizens. A noticeable recent trend refers to various initiatives of older persons themselves, including clubs and support groups for volunteer activities, as well as income-generation programmes. The Government has also concentrated on expanding nursing homes for the aged with dementia or paralysis and on providing home care for older people.

    PETRE CIOTLOS, Secretary of State, Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity of Romania: In order to ensure security and a decent living for the older population, as well as proper health services, Romania has undertaken a complex reform of its social insurance system. The next step will be to complete a legislative and institutional framework so that a pension system can be created.

    The Government aims to adopt and implement measures to cover inflation and its affect on pensions, which will also eliminate inequities between pension levels. A multi-pillar system to involve both the public and private sectors is almost drawn up, and should be adopted by the end of 2002. This system will mean higher pension levels than in a single pillar system, and make long-term financial sustainability and equal treatment for all contributors possible.

    Romania’s main goals at the national level in the field of social assistance for older persons include: developing a social assistance system to provide social services for vulnerable groups; encouraging efforts to reorganize and rehabilitate elderly care institutions; provide institutional support to develop and diversify social services for vulnerable groups; and organizing community services to deal with needs identified at the local level.

    INGJERD SCHOU, Minister for Social Affairs of Norway: The remarkable increase in longevity is a consequence of progress in medicine and health services and better economic and social conditions. But we still have to strive for better health and well-being for older persons. We have to fight against HIV/AIDS. Development is therefore a major task. I hope that the results of the Monterrey summit and this Assembly will contribute to that process.

    We have to change the images of ageing. There is a vicious circle here. Young and middle-aged persons often have a false picture of frail elderly people, and expect them to retire from work. But most people who reach the present pension age in Western societies are far from frail. They ought to be expected to lead active social and political lives and to continue to be working beyond retirement age. On the other hand, many old people also develop disabilities such as decreased mobility, eyesight and hearing. It is of the utmost importance that the Plan of Action give sound advice on these matters. Insufficient attention has been paid to the need for designing a society for all.

    I would like to say a few words on this Assembly’s Political Declaration. We should adopt a political declaration that gives guidelines for future work on the most important questions: economic and social development as a prerequisite for a healthy and active old age; a society for all ages must be accessible for persons with disabilities; and old people should be treated as a resource, not as a burden for society.

    HELENE B. RAJAONARIVELO (Madagascar): The question of ageing should occupy a more prominent place among other world issues. Twenty years have passed since the Vienna Assembly, and today, the international community has come together to re-examine the question and adopt a revised Plan of Action, which needs to be adapted to the new realities, taking into account the needs of the developing world. We must -- as an imperative -- formulate global policies to tackle the problem of the ageing of the world population, which has become a phenomenon of the twenty-first century.

    My country is encountering the situation of ageing, and the Government is beginning to take measures to guarantee a better quality of life for the elderly. My delegation welcomes several regional meetings on the issue of ageing, including the one organized by the Organization of African Unit (OAU) in Nairobi in December 2001. Its recommendations focus on the need to strengthen the coordination of actions and address the issues of poverty alleviation, social security and protection, as well as older people’s health, access to housing, reintegration into the family and care for older people. Among other important issues are employment security and maintenance of income.

    The problem of isolation does not yet arise for the majority of older people in my country, because they are integrated in their communities. However, with increasing breakdown of the family, a growing number of the elderly are becoming a burden to their families. It is important to benefit from their experience and develop mechanisms in line with national cultures and values. We are counting on international cooperation and increased resources to strengthen the role of the family and reinstate the traditional status of elder people. As for the high costs of health care, they should be carried first and foremost by the aged themselves, with help from their families and neighbours. One of the possibilities involves creation of communal solidarity funds for ageing people. The duty of the State would then be to promote and support those initial efforts.

    ENRIQUE SILVA CIMMA (Chile): Chile has worked intensely to address the issues of older persons, to ensure that their concerns can be resolved to ensure a full and happy life. Six years ago, we realized that the number of older persons had considerably increased, and working on behalf of older people became our priority. We approved a policy for older persons which sets out a series of essential issues. The most important of these was the need to ensure an active life for older persons in social terms, and also in academic fields. One of the decisive factors in carrying out the policy was a Council that concerned itself with the cultural aspects of ageing. Many of Chile’s universities have incorporated in their curriculum policies on behalf of older persons. There is considerable interest in assisting older persons from the academic standpoint.

    Everything, of course, is not perfect for older persons in Chile. We are concerned with poverty, the large difference between the wealthiest and the lower levels of society. Poverty affects older people to a great extent and the Government must now address the issue of old age pensions. Progress has been made -- the widows of deceased workers received half of what their spouses would have, and that has been corrected. Discriminatory taxes have also been addressed.

    There is considerable concern for the low pensions available to some of our older citizens, and we have noted suggestions made at this conference. We would like to suggest the possibility of a regional conference in 2003, which Chile would be pleased to host.

    OMER HUSSEIN SABAA (Yemen): Called upon to take important decisions in line with the Millennium Declaration, this conference is a historic opportunity to build a society for all ages. Twenty years after the First Assembly, the subject of ageing remains high on the world agenda. In a large number of societies, there is a disproportionate number of elderly people. Old age should not be an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights.

    In general, we approve of most of the measures proposed in the draft documents before the Assembly, in particular as far as increased social protection for the elderly is concerned. My country has followed the democratic path and is committed to the cause of human rights, including those of the elderly. Older people, in accordance with the principles of Islam, occupy an important place in our society. The Government of Yemen protects the development and welfare of the elderly. We have put in place legislature to protect their rights and have introduced social security measures.

    As a developing country, we consider the elderly an integral dimension of combating poverty. My Government will do everything possible, within the scope of its resources, to promote better conditions of life for the elderly. I hope the results of the Assembly will be a step forward and that a revised action plan will be adopted on ageing, which would take into account the economic, social and cultural realities of our time. We need to show political will to implement international decisions in this respect.

    In conclusion, I want to say that it is painful to remember the situation of the Palestinian older people, who are exposed to unbearable humiliation that is taking place.

    NICOLE ELISHA (Benin): Our Assembly is evidence of our commitment to working for older persons, who are the living memories of our true values and the holders of our traditions. To be an older person in Benin used to be an honour -- an older person was venerated and considered a pillar underlying the family and community. Today, threats facing older persons, as well as family stability, include unemployment, poorly paid work and the deteriorating living conditions of working people who support the elderly.

    The challenge of addressing that scenario, to which globalization is contributing, must be met. Working people who have become masters in their work and retire should be well paid. Instead, they often lose income and must survive by depending on their families. The family is the main support of the older person, certainly in the case of Africa.

    Considering the social role older persons can play, they must be given increased protection. The Government in Benin is carrying out a study into their needs and preparing a document on strategies for social protection. It intends to establish a hospital for older persons and an information centre to assist them. Those plans reflect the determination of the State to improve the lives of older persons.

    TALAL MUBARAK AL-AYYAR, Minister of Electricity and Water Resources, Social Affairs and Labour of Kuwait: Participation of older persons in the life of society should be a priority within national plans of development. Equal access to jobs, adequate income -- as a means of poverty eradication -- and financial assistance for those who are unable to work should be ensured. It is also important to strengthen inter-generational ties within families and local communities. Among other priorities are health-care schemes for the elderly, accessible housing and transportation, access to education and rehabilitation, and employment opportunities.

    Basing their actions on the international agenda, the Arab States have recognized the importance of preparing a work plan targeted to older persons. The plan stresses such issues as the establishment of NGOs for the welfare of the aged, increased awareness of related issues, and health-care programmes for older persons. At the national level, Kuwait builds its efforts on the foundation of the Islamic religion, which promotes filial piety towards older people. Social support is provided to elderly persons, and monthly financial aid is guaranteed to them. Several clubs have been established for their enjoyment. Various hospitals and medical clinics are providing comprehensive health care for older people, and under the social security law of 1976 and its amendment, many categories of older persons, including civil servants, tradesmen, businessmen and craftsmen, benefit from generous pensions.

    I hope the Assembly will condemn and denounce the intentional killings and terrorism performed by Israeli forces against civilians, including older persons, in the lands of the Palestinian Authority, and by which they violated all international covenants, Security Council resolutions and other relevant international decisions. The international community should put pressure on Israel to release all prisoners, some of whom are elderly.

    We live in a world without any boundaries, and in every corner of the world people are struggling to eliminate inequality. It is our duty to ensure better life for older people and integrate them as productive members of our societies.

    * *** *