Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States
2013 AARP-United Nations Briefing Series on Global Ageing
8 February 2013, New York
Colleagues and friends, good afternoon
Allow me to welcome you to this joint collaboration between DESA and AARP. I am pleased to be with you on the second day of this Briefing Series on Global Ageing. I wish to commend AARP for reintroducing this popular event after a one year hiatus.
As you know, the priority theme of this year’s Commission for Social Development is “promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.
It is also the culmination of the second review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. I am sure many of you attended the high-level panel at the Commission on this subject yesterday. The strive for empowerment includes, of course, older persons – and is one of the main tenets of the Madrid Plan of Action.
Today, we are witnessing a world that is rapidly getting older. In 1980, just prior to the convening of the First World Assembly on Ageing, there were 378 million people in the world aged 60 or older. Now, 30 years later, that figure has doubled, and is projected to rise to 2 billion by 2050.
My own country, China, has contributed much to that increase.
To respond to this unprecedented population ageing and steady increase in human longevity globally, we need a strategic focus on ageing issues. These are far-reaching and cross cutting, and include:
- poverty and income security
- pension reform and non-contributory pensions
- health and long-term care
- abuse, neglect and violence
- mainstreaming ageing into development agendas
- age-discrimination and rights, as well as the
- dire need for more data and research – particularly in developing countries.
We all agree that older persons, everywhere, must be allowed to age with dignity and security. However, such an achievement will not arise in a vacuum. It requires adequate policies, strategies and laws to ensure their empowerment, full integration and participation in society.
This can be achieved. We need to provide older persons – both as individuals and as a group – with the necessary opportunities. We need to enable their capacity to foster relationships and the institutional interactions necessary to attain decent work, basic services and full participation in political life. This is what we envisage social empowerment to be.
The recent second review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing tells us that Member States recognize the importance of the provision of benefits and healthcare to older persons. There is, nonetheless, an evident lack of coordinated policy response to support the full participation of older persons in society. This is especially important as globalization and changing social structures expand risks and vulnerabilities for older persons, most notably older women.
Much needs to be done if we are to realise the goal of creating a society-for-all. The time to steer away from the view of ageing being a “burden” and “economic cost” to society, is long overdue. Such anachronistic views are rooted in ageist norms and assumptions that exclude older persons; that undermines their independence and thus their empowerment.
When policies recognise older persons as an overlooked and untapped human, social and economic potential, we will be better able to ensure their continuing participation. We will be able to harness their knowledge and capacities to benefit all of society.
In the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, we strive to better support Member States to improve policy formulation, implementation and monitoring in the area of ageing. We also encourage enhanced partnerships with civil society organizations, and organizations of older persons. Indeed, empowerment of older persons cannot be achieved unless they are able to express their opinions and make decisions about matters that affect their lives, whether within their families, communities or nations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The growing numbers of older persons can no longer be ignored. Let us celebrate the unique achievement of longevity. I invite you to turn your attention to best practices and policy solutions for fully integrating older persons in social development.
I thank you for your attention, and wish you all successful discussions today.