Building a society for all ages


Second World Assembly on Ageing
8 - 12 April, 2002 Madrid, Spain

Second World Assembly on Ageing

The world is getting older. in the next 50 years, the number of older persons will nearly quadruple, growing from about 600 million to almost 2 billion people. Today, one in every ten is 60 years and older. By 2050, one out of every five will be an older person, and by 2150, one third of the people in the world are expected to be 60 years of age or older.

In some developed countries and countries with economies in transition, birth rates have fallen below replacement levels, and the number of older persons now exceeds the number of children. In the decades to come, the increase in the number of older persons will be greatest in developing countries, where the older population is expected to quadruple over the next 50 years.

The ageing of the world's population is a matter of concern for everyone - all generations in all countries, both developing and developed. This transformation in the make-up of the population will have profound consequences on every aspect of life - for individuals and for societies.

Developing countries will face the most difficult resource challenge, as they will be forced to deal with development and population ageing at the same time. But as people live longer, healthier and more active lives, an ageing population also offers opportunities that must be harnessed.

To address the challenges associated with this momentous demographic shift, the United Nations General Assembly decided to convene the Second World Assembly on Ageing from 8 to 12 April 2002 in Madrid, Spain.

Why a world assembly?

This is not the first time that that the international community has examined the challenges of individual and population ageing. At the first World Assembly on Ageing, held in Vienna in 1982, countries adopted the International Plan of Action on Ageing, which has guided thinking and action on ageing over the past 20 years. The Plan recommended a variety of initiatives in employment and income security, health, housing, education and social welfare.

Now, 20 years later, as the world faces the profound ageing of its population, the Second World Assembly on Ageing is being held to help governments and societies plan policies that will ensure that older persons can continue to contribute to society in a meaningful way to the best of their ability. In addition to a review of the Vienna Assembly, it will adopt a revised plan of action that will consider the social, cultural, economic and demographic realities of the new century. The revised plan of action - submitted in draft form as the International Strategy for Action on Ageing to Member States - is intended to be a practical tool to assist policy-makers in developing responses to the demographic changes taking place in their societies. The Strategy will stress the need to ensure that ageing has a basic place in all policy agendas, both domestic and international, and in other major documents for social, economic and human rights development.

On the way to Madrid

When the General Assembly decided, in May 2000, to convene the Second World Assembly on Ageing, it stated that the World Assembly should focus on:

The General Assembly has invited non-governmental organizations, research institutions and the private sector to take part in the World Assembly and in its preparation. It has also designated the United Nations Commission for Social Development as the Preparatory Committee for the Second World Assembly and has entrusted the Committee with the responsibility of guiding the negotiations on the International Strategy for Action.

The United Nations Programme on Ageing, in the Division for Social Policy and Development, will serve as the Secretariat of the Assembly. Recognizing that all sectors of society must participate in the drafting of the Strategy, it has welcomed contributions from expert group meetings, panel discussions, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, governments, NGOs and civil society.

A Technical Committee made up of experts from a variety of professional and geographic backgrounds was established. Its three meetings (Germany, 13-16 June 2000; the Dominican Republic, 24-27 October 2000; and Austria, 23-26 April 2001) have played a crucial role in providing input. In addition, many comments and recommendations from Member States, United Nations bodies and civil society have been incorporated into the draft.

The draft was discussed by the Commission for Social Development, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the World Assembly, at its three meetings held in New York during 2001 (from 26 February to 2 March, 30 April to 1 May, and 10 to 14 December 2001).

The Spanish Government has created an organizing committee for the World Assembly under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Format of the Assembly

The main task of the World Assembly, which will be held at Madrid's Municipal Palace of Congress, will be to agree on the Strategy.

The Assembly will organize its work around the Plenary and the Main Committee. The Plenary will allow for a general exchange of views on the main themes, while the Main Committee and other working groups, if needed, will be responsible for preparing the Strategy for adoption by the Plenary.

A series of round table-discussions sponsored by the Government of Spain will involve independent experts, eminent persons and groups with special interest in issues relating to ageing. The goal is to promote a broad
dialogue between governments and civil society on key issues and challenges related to ageing.

NGO Forum

The Forum for non-governmental organizations will take place at the Convention Centre Feria de Madrid-IFEMA from 4 to 9 April 2002. The Forum will give NGOs the opportunity to exchange global ideas and experiences, highlight their role in advocacy and awareness-raising, and discuss ways to put the Strategy into effect. Inquiries about the NGO Forum may be addressed to the Spanish Red Cross, acting as Secretary General for the Organizing Committee for the Forum, at

Valencia Forum

A scientific Forum will be held from 1 to 4 April 2002 in Valencia, Spain. It will bring together international academics; researchers; professional practitioners of gerontology, geriatric and aged care; and representatives of the private sector. Participants will pool their scientific knowledge, experience and understanding on how best to address the issues of individual and population ageing. The recommendations formulated at the Forum will contribute to putting the Strategy into effect. The Forum is taking place under the auspices of the International Association of Gerontology and is supported by the Swiss-based Novartis Foundation for Gerontology. (For more information see


Information for the Media and ngos

Additional information can be found on the United Nations websites, at and
The Spanish Government also has a website, at

For general inquiries, please contact:
United Nations Programme on Ageing
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Tel: 1 (212) 963-3174 o Fax: 1 (212) 963-0111 o E-mail:

For media inquiries:
United Nations Department of Public Information
Public Affairs Division
Tel: 1 (212) 963-6877 o Fax: 1 (212) 963-1186 o E-mail:

Inquiries from NGOs may be addressed to:
NGO Liaison Officer for the Second World Assembly on Ageing
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Tel: 1 (212) 963-3175 o Fax: 1 (212) 963-3062 o E-mail:

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
DPI/2230 - December 2001 - 20M