ECOSOC
 

Statement

by

H.E. Dr. Ivan Šimonovic

The President of the Economic and Social
Council
 

at the
Second World Assembly on Ageing

Madrid, Spain
9th April 2002








Introduction

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

All of us can gain a lot by an extended lifetime: the young are offered a chance to
grow old and the old to grow older.  From everybody's point of view, demographic
ageing is not a curse, but a blessing in disguise.  Population ageing is a global
phenomenon that has or will effect every man, woman and child in the world.  The
second World Assembly on Ageing offers a unique opportunity to set standards on
policies and programmes aimed at improving the quality of life of each and every human 
being in an in an all-inclusive society for all ages. It therefore, rests on all of us to make
the most of this Conference if we are to make the 21st century a century of inclusion.

Mr. President,

It is a great honour to be here today in my capacity as President of the Economic and Social Council and to participate in your deliberations.  The time has come to explore together, the nature and scope of demographic ageing throughout the world and the impact this has had on the individual, the family, society, as well as, economies and cultures. 

Unprecedented demographic changes are transforming today's world.  Increases in the ratio of older persons (60 years or older), are being accompanied by declines in the ratio of younger people (under 15 years old).  By 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of younger persons for the first time in the history of humankind. As a group, older persons are among the poorest, even in wealthier nations.  This situation is worsened in countries where a substantial proportion of the whole population is poor.  Here, older people slide down the slope into deeper poverty and marginalisation as their ability to work is impaired by age. 

Furthermore, let us not overlook the significant gender dimension to this picture.
Women outlive men in most countries, and in developing countries older women account
for more than 10 percent of the total population, many widowed and living alone. The
steady increase of older age groups in natural populations will have a direct bearing on 
the relationship within families, equality across generations, lifestyles and family 
solidarity, that is the foundation of our society. It is especially worrying that recent 
research shows that these members of society commonly find themselves invisible, 
excluded, and powerless.

During the next few days you will discuss a number of crucial and highly 
significant issues: 

You will finalise and adopt the 2002 International Plan of Action on Ageing, which includes recommendations for action in a number of priority areas, such as older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring an enabling and supportive environment.

You will also adopt a Political Declaration, which will guide the thinking and action on ageing toward three priority areas: (i) older persons and development; (ii) advancing health and well being into old age and (iii) ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

 In this context, I would want to emphasise that the adoption of commitments and guiding principles of major United Nations conferences and summits during the past years have played a significant role in advancing the framework for policies on ageing. Let me just mention a few examples: the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development; the 1995 World Summit for Social Development; and the United Nations Millennium Declaration. Two functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council have been instrumental in the preparation, servicing and follow-up to these conferences: The Commission for Social Development and the Commission on Population and Development.

The role of the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on Population and Development

 The Council has followed closely the work of the Commission for Social Development. In addition to its responsibilities in relation to the follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, the Commission for Social Development supported the preparatory process for the Second World Assembly on Ageing by serving as its preparatory committee, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 54/262. The Commission for Social Development might also be assigned a key role in the follow-up process of this World Assembly.

 The Commission on Population and Development has been examining and assessing the trends, determinants and consequences of population ageing. A major task of the Commission is to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development at the national, regional and international levels. Its examination of trends in that area is also contributing to the work of the Commission for Social Development. 

 In this context, I want to emphasise the importance of mainstreaming the subject of ageing in the global agenda. In the economic area, for example, population ageing has an impact on economic growth, savings, investment and consumption, labour markets, pensions and taxation. In the social sphere, population ageing affects health and health care, family composition and living arrangements, housing and migration.

The role of the Economic and Social Council

 The prospects are for a more and more fragile economic and social situation for most older people world wide: by 2025, the number of older people in the developing world is predicted to double to 850 million - 12 percent of the global population, as a group, older people are among the poorest, even in wealthier nations, whilst at the same time, the ratio of older people to those in middle age is increasing. 

 Faced with such a forecast, the Economic and Social Council has a major task to fulfil. The Council is a co-ordinating body, establishing links, for example, with and among functional commissions on crosscutting issues in the economic and social field. In addition, the Council is committed to providing guidance to the United Nations system on how to ensure a co-ordinated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits. You are all aware of the importance of an effective and efficient implementation of and follow-up to the 2002 Plan of Action on Ageing. The Council can help to keep the organisations of the system fully mobilised to help governments achieve the goals of Madrid. 

 The follow-up process of this World Assembly would provide an opportunity for the Economic and Social Council to become a key global platform at the intergovernmental level to enhance policy coherence in the area of ageing and ageing related issues among global partners. Issues related to ageing indeed cut across all our policies - last month's Monterrey international conference on financing for development, for instance, discussed the role of pension schemes as a source of both social protection as well as savings and resources for development.

 As part of its monitoring of United Nations conferences and summits, the Council is supporting the General Assembly in the specific follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit and, in particular, the Millennium Declaration goals. Let me stress, in this context, that the Millennium Summit affirmed the long-term imperative of eradicating poverty and fulfilling the social and humanitarian goals set up by the global conferences of the 1990s.The inclusion of all population groups is one of the keys to achieving the Millennium Goals.

Conclusion

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

 There is no doubt that in the 21st century we will live longer.  Investment in human development throughout our entire lifetime and supporting age-integrated social institutions are not mere exercises in rhetoric but rather fundamental prerequisites for a society for all ages that all of us want to be a part of in the 21st century.  As we are already experiencing in many parts of the world, any marginalisation of an ageing population, also means an ultimate undermining of the rest of society. 

 Whether the extension of our life span will be accompanied by an increase or decrease of quality of life for all ages, depends on our commitment. This Conference is a unique opportunity for setting practical targets and agreeing upon concrete action for implementation. These next few days can lay the foundation for a society that is more just and inclusive for all of us.  I wish you every success in your work.

 Thank you.