Highlights Vol , No. - February 2019

60 is the new 50: Rethinking ageing in the SDGs era

Blowing out the birthday candles, a newly minted sexagenarian will often think: “But I don’t feel 60.” And demographers back that sentiment with data that documents the remarkable revolution in longevity, which is redefining the meaning of turning 60. In a very real, demographic sense, 60 is the new 50.

According to statistics from UN DESA’s World Population Prospects, new 60-year-olds in high-income countries can expect to live at least another 25 years. As recently as in the 1950s, this was true of 50-year-olds.

All societies in the world are in the midst of this longevity revolution – some are at its earlier stages and some are more advanced. But all will pass through this extraordinary transition, in which survival to age 60 changes from a flip‑of‑the-coin, 50-50 chance – as was the case in Sweden in the 1880s – to a near certainty at present. What is more, the proportion of adult life spent beyond age 60 increases from less than a quarter to a third or more in most developed countries.

These changes for individuals are mirrored in societal changes. Older persons become the largest demographic group in society – accounting for more than a quarter of the population. Today, that is true for 15 countries, but UN DESA’s Population Division expects that number to grow to 145 countries by the end of the century covering most of the world’s population.

Traditionally, the United Nations and most researchers have used measures and indicators on ageing that are mostly or entirely based on people’s chronological age, defining older persons as those 60 years and older. This has so far provided a simple, clear and easily replicable way to measure and track various indicators of ageing.

However, there has been increasing recognition that the mortality risks, health status, type and level of activity, productivity, and other socio-economic characteristics of older persons have changed significantly in many parts of the world over the last century, and even more so, over the last several decades. This has led to the development of alternative concepts and measures of ageing to provide different outlooks on the levels and trends of ageing, and to offer a more nuanced appreciation of what ageing means in different contexts.

New measurements and concepts of population ageing have significant implications for measuring living conditions and living arrangements of older persons as well as their contributions to their societies. Further, new measurement approaches impact on the assessment of older persons’ needs for social protection and health care, their labour market participation as well as planning for life-long education.

These changes, and the various approaches to understanding and measuring ageing, also carry important implications for the review of long-term, international development goals. These include the objectives highlighted in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and, most recently, the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To take stock of these new concepts and methodological approaches to measuring ageing and to assess their applicability and possible implications for policy analysis and policy development at the national and international level, UN DESA’s Population Division, the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), and Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), are organizing an international expert group meeting on “Measuring population ageing: Bridging Research and Policy”. One of the highlights of the event will be a moderated discussion of journalists on the role of media as they inform but also reflect public attitudes and opinions on population ageing.

The meeting will be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 25 to 26 February 2019 and is expected to be attended by about 80-100 government officials, academia, civil society and the media from all over the world.

Interested participants who will not be able to attend the event in person can follow the event via live-stream over the internet.

For more information: Expert group meeting on “Measuring population ageing: Bridging Research and Policy”

Inclusive social development – essential to achieve the global goals

Social exclusion is connected to all forms of inequality. It affects people’s well-being and deprives them of opportunities and civil representation, which can ultimately push powerless groups into the margins of society. “High and worsening inequality is becoming the defining issue of our time,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin at a recent meeting of the General Assembly’s Third Committee. “According to some estimates, the richest one percent of the global population owned 82 percent of stock of wealth in 2017, while the poorest half saw no increase in their wealth.”

“However, rising inequality is not inevitable,” Mr. Liu continued, referencing the important work of the Commission for Social Development and the fact that the priority theme of the Commission’s 57th session will be “Addressing Inequalities and Challenges to Social Inclusion through Fiscal, Wage and Social Protection Policies.”

Taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 11 to 21 February, the event will feature four high-level panel discussions, general debates, as well as over 45 side events. Organizations accredited to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Member States and UN Agencies will come together to build on the outcomes of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly and the past Commission.

In addition to the main theme, the Commission will look closer at the emerging issue of the “Empowerment of people affected by natural and human-made disasters to reduce inequality: Addressing the differential impact on persons with disabilities, older persons and youth.”

There are also two newly added panel discussions – a ministerial forum on social protection and an interactive dialogue on the priority theme – which will allow for an in-depth consultation on topics of interest to the Commission.

The side events will cover a broad range of related issues, such as accountability mechanisms, family policies, youth entrepreneurship and national initiatives in various regions, including Africa, Latin America and Europe. In addition, the NGO Committee on Social Development will host a Civil Society Forum on 15 February to forge partnership among stakeholders.

“The role of this Commission is of crucial importance to providing substantive, engaging, technical and expert advice with concrete and action-oriented policy recommendations to ECOSOC and Member States,” remarked Ms. Sama Salem Poules, Vice-Chair of the Bureau of the Commission’s 57th Session. “Without inclusive social development, there will be no achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ms. Daniela Bas, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development, further stressed that fiscal, wage and social protection policies must be sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, such as persons with disabilities, older persons and youth, who are affected by natural and human-made disasters.

The multi-stakeholder panels at this year’s Commission will reaffirm the commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by addressing the systemic causes associated with social exclusion and exchanging their views on equitable and inclusive social development.

For more information: 57th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD57)

Staying on-track to realize the Sustainable Development Goals

2019 will be a critical year for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN DESA will be fully engaged in the preparation of the two High-level Political Forums, one in July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), completing its first cycle, and one in September at the summit level under the auspices of the General Assembly. We must seize the momentum to implement the 2030 Agenda and use this opportune year to assess progress and to strengthen our political will to act to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in all regions.

Many countries are aligning their national policies and institutions behind the Goals to improve people’s lives. Businesses are taking action to invest in new technologies, opening up new markets, and building the sustainable and inclusive economy of the 21st century. Civil society organizations and other stakeholders are also using these Goals to drive change at the local, subnational and national levels and holding their Governments accountable.

Even though progress is being made, gaps are evident. The world remains on a trajectory of increasing inequality, and it is facing armed conflicts, humanitarian and environmental crises, as well as economic, financial and climate challenges.

Moreover, the scale and pace of change in public and private investment in sustainable development remain alarmingly insufficient. We, therefore, urgently need a surge in financing, investments and technological innovation.

In 2019, UN DESA will launch the Global Sustainable Development Report, an analysis by an independent group of scientists undertaken every four years to assess where we stand. Additionally, over the next months, the department will release several other analytical reports to assess progress made towards the SDGs to provide context to this year’s high-level discussions.

This spring, UN DESA and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will also co-facilitate a conference, seeking to amplify the interlinkages between climate action and the broader 2030 Agenda and share best practices on attracting financing for both.

High-level Political Forum in July

The HLPF will be convened under the auspices of ECOSOC from 9 to 18 July 2019.  It will address the theme “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. Fifty-one countries, both developed and developing, will present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs)— sharing their national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learnt, in implementing the 2030 Agenda and SDGs.

At the same time, the July HLPF will review progress in the thematic areas of quality education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), climate action (SDG 13), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), and partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17). UN DESA is coordinating a series of Expert Group Meetings on each goal to prepare and inform the thematic discussions at HLPF.

High-level Political Forum in September – SDG Summit

The HLPF under the auspices of the General Assembly will take place at the summit level on 24 and 25 September 2019. Heads of State and Governments, joined by leaders from civil society organizations, foundations, the business sector and other stakeholders, will focus on the overall implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Areas of progress towards the SDGs will be identified. Actions for scaling up will be considered. A political declaration of Heads of State and Government is expected to give guidance on how to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. The SDG Summit will complement the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, to be held the day before.

UN DESA has launched a call to receive good practices and success stories in SDG implementation by all stakeholders through its SDG Good Practices portal. The main findings of this evidence-based stocktaking will be highlighted and showcase in the lead-up to, and during the Summit.

A series of side events and special events will also be organized to complement the July HLPF and the SDG Summit, aiming to engage and mobilize partners around the SDGs. The special events will include the SDG Business Forum, Partnership Exchange, SDG Film Festival, Chief Sustainability Officers event, Major Groups and Other Stakeholders meeting, an event with universities and higher education institutions, and Local and Regional Governments Forum, which will convene mayors from the world’s major cities to focus on ways to localize the 2030 Agenda.

Other related events

In 2019, four years after the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), we will also have the opportunity to review progress on its commitments and the current state of play on the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum and SDG Investment Fair in April 2019 will be critical junctures for building momentum in response to emerging risks to the economic outlook and potential opportunities. These will feed into the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development in September 2019.

In September 2019, the UN General Assembly will also hold a one-day high level review of the progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway. The high-level review will result in a concise, action-oriented and inter-governmentally agreed political declaration.

As the United Nations Secretariat entity responsible for economic, social and environmental issues, UN DESA leads the work from the Secretariat side, preparing for and ensuring the success of the 2019 HLPF in July, the SDG Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (FFD), and the SAMOA Pathway high-level meeting to review progress in September at the beginning of the 74th session of the General Assembly, as well as all other related side and special events.

For more information: High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Making every drop count – a decade for action

Access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right that affects our health and our safety. We need safe water to drink every day, and we need adequate sanitation facilities to ensure that everyone has the ability to attend school or work, and is protected against sexual assault. And, we need to manage the flow of wastewater safely to protect our fragile ecosystems. But we have a long way to go.

Today, about 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services, and about 2.5 billion people—36 percent of the world’s population—live in water-scarce regions. More than two billion people must drink contaminated water, resulting in a child dying every minute. Globally, 80 per cent of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, and droughts and floods are increasing in severity as a result of our changing climate.

The Water Action Decade, launched on World Water Day last March, is working to halt this growing water crisis. The “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development,” as it is known in its unanimous General Assembly resolution, serves as a platform for countries to share some of their major water challenges and possible solutions. The Decade puts greater focus on sustainable development and an integrated management of water resources to achieve social, economic and environmental objectives.

“The Water Action Decade provides a unique framework to support efforts to overcome these challenges by energizing the implementation and promotion of programmes and projects on integrated and sustainable management of water and sanitation,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General. “It further provides an exceptional opportunity to strengthen cooperation and partnership at all levels to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and other water-related goals and targets.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, with the support of UN-Water, has drawn up a plan for the Decade, which will be active until 20 March 2028. In it, the Secretary-General calls for the energized implementation of existing water programmes and projects, and mobilized action for water as a tool for sustainable development.

Countries and organizations around the world are already implementing this plan by sharing their experiences with water and sanitation projects on a new website for the decade – www.wateractiondecade.org.

Additionally, the Government of Tajikistan, with the support of the UN system, organized the High-level International Conference of the Decade in Dushanbe from 20 to 22 June under the theme “Promoting Action for Policy Dialogue.” The Conference was attended by high-level delegations and representatives from 120 countries, including heads of state and government, and provided valuable opportunities for Member States and other stakeholders to promote actions, partnerships and policy dialogue to support internationally agreed water goals and targets.

On 28 November, the General Assembly’s Second Committee adopted a resolution by consensus, calling for a United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the Decade, to take place on 22-24 March 2023 in New York.

Furthermore, Member States requested the President of the General Assembly, to convene a one-day high-level meeting to promote the implementation of the water-related Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda in New York in 2021.

All of these different actions are in line with the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Water, which in its outcome document, “Making Every Drop Count,” emphasized the need to convene UN meetings on water at the highest possible level to spur commitments of global leaders.

For more information:

Water Action Decade

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