Global perspective Human stories

Society 'for all ages' to be key focus of UN forum in Madrid, UN official says

Society 'for all ages' to be key focus of UN forum in Madrid, UN official says

Nitin Desai
Facing the prospect of momentous demographic changes that may see the number of people over 60 outnumbering those under 15 within the next half-century, an upcoming United Nations forum on ageing issues will look at ways of creating a world hospitable for citizens of all ages, according to a senior UN official involved in preparations for the conference.

Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday that next month's Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid, Spain, would take place amid far greater recognition of the importance of this issue compared to the first such Assembly in 1982.

Mr. Desai said that he also expected a greater focus during the Assembly on the problems of the developing countries. In contrast to the developed world, where adjustments in the economy, health care, housing and social relations to demographic changes took place over the last 100 years, the developing world will have to learn to cope with the same transformations in just the next 25 years with far less resources.

The Assembly's outcome would look at the problems not in isolation, but as part of an effort to build a "society for all ages," he stressed, adding that during preparatory negotiations, a lot of attention had been paid to issues of older persons and development, health and well-being in old age, among other things. The crosscutting issues of human rights, gender and poverty also have played a role.

While there was 80 per cent agreement on the outcome text, which was still being negotiated, Mr. Desai said the remaining 20 per cent concerned some issues of financing and funding, as well as health care for older persons and human rights.

Joining Mr. Desai at the briefing was Ambassador Milos Alcalay of Venezuela, who pointed out that ageing was also part of the development agenda for which the just concluded International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, had been the starting point.

Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Ambassador Alcalay said that the problem for developing countries was that increasing longevity meant that people lived longer in poverty, a situation that had not previously existed. The Group of 77 was very optimistic, he said, that solutions could be found during the remaining negotiations, even if they had to continue during the Assembly, which will take place from 8 to 12 April.