UN forum adopts new blueprint to face challenge of ageing global population
After five days of intensive work, the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing concluded successfully in Madrid today by adopting an action plan aimed at addressing the challenges brought about by the rapidly growing number of older persons around the world, particularly in the developing countries.
Responding to growing concern over the speed and scale of global ageing, the International Plan of Action, which contained over 120 recommendations, and the accompanying Political Declaration both stressed the "crucial" importance of incorporating ageing issues into all development plans as a way of coping with what has been billed as the main demographic challenge of the 21st century.
The forum's final texts, approved after a marathon negotiating session that stretched long into the night, focused on three main priorities: older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.
UN experts estimate that by 2050, there will be nearly 2 billion people aged 60 or older worldwide, with 80 per cent of them living in developing countries. Also by mid-century, the median age for the world population is expected to rise to 36 years from 26 years today.
In contrast to the First World Assembly in 1982 in Vienna, this week's forum placed high priority on the situation in developing countries, which have witnessed dramatic intensification of the ageing phenomenon. The Madrid Assembly also recognized that ageing was not simply an issue of social security and welfare, but one of overall development and economic policy. It also stressed the need to promote a positive approach to ageing and overcome the stereotypes associated with older persons.
Stressing that the agreement on the final texts represented "a very successful conclusion" of the event, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai called on the international community to take responsibility to support activities that will allow countries to manage the demographic change. The measures envisioned in the documents would be complemented by regional strategies and plans of actions to be approved by meetings held as follow-up to the Assembly, he told a press conference in Madrid this afternoon.
For his part, the Chairman of the Assembly's Main Committee, Felipe Paolillo of Uruguay, noted that ageing was a common problem for all countries of the world and that was the reason for organizing the Assembly. While it was true that the main responsibility for tackling the issue lay with governments, in many cases, countries did not know how to tackle the complex challenges of a rapidly ageing population, he said. The role of the Assembly was to provide governments with a blueprint for actions in the economic and social arenas.