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Volume 16, No.10 - October 2012

Global dialogue on development


Meeting the needs of older persons

International Day of Older Persons on 1 October will be celebrated under the theme “Longevity: Shaping the Future” with events in Geneva on 1 October and New York on 10 October

On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated 1 October the International Day of Older Persons. This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing – which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing – and endorsed later that year by the UN General Assembly. 

In 1991, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons and in 2002, the Second World Assembly on Ageing adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, to respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing in the 21st century and to promote the development of a society for all ages. 

For last year’s commemoration, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “In the current fiscal environment, we must be vigilant in ensuring that the provision of social protection, long-term care and access to public health for the elderly is not undermined. On this International Day of Older Persons, I call on governments and communities everywhere to provide more opportunities for their ageing populations.”

For more information:

International Day of Older Persons

Second Committee announces six special events

The Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) of the General Assembly will address a wide range of issues under the chairmanship of H.E. Mr. George Wilfred Talbot from Guyana as it begins its working session on 8 October

The agenda of the Second Committee features a general debate followed by a broad range of agenda items on topics including groups of countries in special situations, globalization and interdependence, macroeconomic policy questions, sustainable development, financing for development and the eradication of poverty. The Committee will also address agricultural development and food security, and the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

During the the first meeting of the Committee which was held on 21 September, Mr. Modest Jonathan Mero of the United Republic of Tanzania was elected as Vice-Chair from the African States group. The rest of the bureau is composed by representatives from Bangladesh, Mr. Tauhedul Islam, and from Italy, Mr. Stefano Stefanile. The Rapporteur is Ms. Aida Hodzic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The chair informed the Committee of the distribution of responsibilities within the bureau and discussed the programme of work. 

The chair also announced six special events proposed by the bureau of the Second Committee: 

  • Lessons learned from debt crises and ongoing work on sovereign debt restructuring and debt resolution mechanisms;
  • Science, technology and innovation: a new development paradigm;
  • The challenges of countries under special situations/The special challenges of middle-income countries;
  • Follow up to Rio+20 on sustainable development goals;
  • Entrepreneurship for development; and
  • Migration and development: causes and impacts.

As in previous years, the general debate will be preceded by a keynote address by a prominent economist, Professor James Robinson from Harvard University. The Chair also announced a joint briefing of the Committee and ECOSOC by the Project Link Partnership; a joint meeting between the Committee and ECOSOC on food security and nutrition; and the possibility of a joint meeting of the Second and Third Committees on a topic of mutual interest that would benefit the work of both Committees. 

The Chair highlighted that the target date for the conclusion of the work of the Committee is 30 November.

For more information:

The Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) of the General Assembly

A show of support to eradicate poverty

The General Assembly has declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and invites all states to devote the day to presenting and promoting concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty

The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be traced back to 17 October 1987. On that day, over a hundred thousand people gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honour the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger. They proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected.

These convictions are inscribed in a commemorative stone unveiled on this day. Since then, people of all backgrounds, beliefs and social origins have gathered every year on 17 October to renew their commitment and show their solidarity with the poor. Replicas of the commemorative stone have been unveiled around the world and serve as a gathering place to celebrate the Day. One such replica is located in the garden of United Nations Headquarters and is the site of the annual commemoration organized by the United Nations Secretariat in New York. 

In 1992, the General Assembly declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and invited all States to devote the Day to presenting and promoting concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution. The General Assembly resolution further invites intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to assist states, at their request, in organizing national activities for the observance of the Day, and requests the Secretary-General to take, within existing resources, the measures necessary to ensure the success of the Day’s observance by the United Nations. 

17 October presents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty, a chance for them to make their concerns heard, and a moment to recognize that poor people are the first ones to fight poverty. Participation of the poor themselves has been at the center of the Day’s celebration since its very beginning. The commemoration of 17 October also reflects the willingness of people living in poverty to use their expertise to contribute to the eradication of poverty. 

For more information:

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Promoting everyday heroes, sustaining forests for people

On the eve of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly, DESA’s UN Forum on Forests Secretariat launched a video series showcasing the inspiring work of the UNFF Forest Heroes award winners

The Forest Heroes Award programme was part of the International Year of Forests 2011 (Forests 2011) celebration. Six Forest Heroes awards were given to eight remarkable individuals from around the world at the closing ceremony of the International Year of Forests in February 2012.   

Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat and member of the jury, said the UNFF Forest Heroes Awards programme was created to honour individuals around the world who are heroically dedicating their lives to forests. “Each of us, all 7 billion people, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to forests. The Forest Heroes embody the compelling message that everyday people can effect positive change for forests everywhere.” 

The award winners are from different parts of the world, of different ages, and impact diverse forests in their own ways. Africa’s Mr. Paul Mzeka is a 78-year-old bee farmer in Cameroon; Asia’s Mr. Shigeatsu Hatakeyama farms oysters in eastern Japan that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami; Europe’s Mr. Anatoly Lebedev advocates for Siberian forests and indigenous tigers; Latin America’s Mr. Paulo Adario campaigns for rainforests and the forest-dependant communities in the Brazilian Amazon; and North America’s Ms. Rhiannon Tomtishen and Ms. Madison Vorva are Girl Scouts from the USA working to raise awareness on the impact of palm oil production on rainforests. In addition, a special award was given posthumously to Mr. José Claudio Ribeiro and Ms. Maria do Espírito Santo, two dedicated advocates in Brazil who were tragically murdered while trying to protect the Amazon forests. 

For more information:

The Forest Heroes Programme and the International Year of Forests

Click here to view videos

Big turn-out to advance rights of persons with disabilities

The Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was held on 12-14 September at UN Headquarters in New York

More than 750 participants attended the opening of the Conference on 12 September, which featured remarks by H.E Ambassador Marten Grunditz (Sweden), President of the Conference, Mr. Wu Hongbo, DESA’s Under-Secretary-General and H.E Moreno Lenin, Vice President of Ecuador, as well as by representatives from OHCHR and civil society organizations.

Under the theme: “Making the CRPD count for Children and Women” , the three-day Conference featured a series of activities, including the election of nine members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, two roundtable sessions, one informal panel discussion, one interactive dialogue with the UN system and a general debate segment. 

Two roundtable and one informal panel discussions were organized around three topics – “technology and accessibility”, “children with disabilities”, and “women with disabilities”. Four background papers were developed by DESA to facilitate interactive discussions among the panelists and the participants with a view to promote disability-inclusive development and explore how to increase the efforts toward inclusive and sustainable development for equitable and just society, through implementation of the Convention, giving special attention to the perspectives of gender and women, as well as children. Another focus of these discussions was around how to tap the potential of technologies to further ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.

The general debate had around 50 States inscribed for the speakers’ list, including many at ministerial levels. Due to time constraints, 17 requests could not be accommodated. Although it is a conference of States Parties, signatories and other observers actively participate in all aspects of the agenda of this very unique global forum. The Conference helps realize the goal of the United Nations’ work in the field of disability that is: the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development, as both agents and beneficiaries.

During the Conference, 34 side-events were organized by Governments, UN system organizations, academic institutions, international and bi-lateral development agencies, and national human rights institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities.

A number of features, such as official documentation in Braille, an accessible UN Enable website, a PaperSmart portal for documents and statements, real time CART transcription (closed captioning), sign language interpretation and webcasting, were included at the Conference, with a view to promoting and facilitating the broadest participation possible. The Enable Daily Bulletin from the Conference was distributed to over 9000 subscribers. Highlights and news about the Conference was also broadcast through social networking media including Facebook and Twitter, via live information from the Conference floor.

The Conference of State Parties has now become one of the largest and key global forums, where stakeholders gather together to discuss experiences and innovative ideas to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and disability-inclusive policies and programmes towards building a just, equitable and inclusive society for all. 

DESA, as the Secretariat for the Conference of States Parties, supported all aspects of the work of the Conference, in collaboration with OLA and OHCHR.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the General Assembly in 2006. The Convention has received strong support from Member States, 153 of which have ratified or acceded to it to date. Many States are now focusing on implementation, and advances are being made in harmonizing national legislation, policies and practices with the Convention.

At the same time, it has been increasingly recognized that disability has not been adequately included in development efforts. To address this situation, the General Assembly has decided to convene a High-level Meeting on Disability and Development on 23 September 2013 so that the international community can take a concerted action toward a disability-inclusive post-2015 development framework. 

For more information: UN Enable