ДЕНЬ ПОЖИЛЫХ в ООН: IDOP Celebration New York, October 10, 2012
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The 22nd Annual Celebration of the International day of Older Persons: «Longevity Shapes the Future» took place on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at the CUNY Graduate Center of the University of the City of New York because the
UN is undergoing some reconstruction. The conference was a collaboration between The NGO Committee on Ageing/New York and the UN Dept of Economic and Social Affairs [UNDESA), the UN Population Fund [UNFPA}, and the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the UN.
After the introduction of the program at 10 am, an excellent and inspiring Keynote Address was given by Dr. Vanda Pignato, the First Lady of El Salvador entitled: » The Case for a Universal Human Rights and Development Convention for Older Persons: THe Viewpoint of El Salvador.» The speaker is a Brazilian lawyer who has devoted her life and career to human rights and international relations. While in law school she joined the international movement in solidarity with the FMLN during the Salvadoran Civil War, and married Mauricio Funes, who was later in 2009 sworn in as president of El Salvador, and he named his wife Minister of Social Inclusion, making her the first Salvadoran First Lady to hold a political position while being First Lady. She has long been working on Issues of Older people. She presented an excellent case for the need for a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons, and the need to advocate for it intensely. She first presented a set of principles: (1) The unavoidable need to adapt to the demographic transformations and respond to a longer lifespan.
(2) The need to give more worth and visibility too ageing as a natural process of the life cycle. (3) The need to systematize and define the rights of older persons. (4) THe existence of diverse international instruments on the matter (eg, other
UN resolutions dealing directly w the rights of older persons have been adopted within the UN framework). (5) A Convention would ensure the Human Rights perspective. (The current charity and assistance approach should be
supplemented and even superceded by a Human rights perspective—ensuring a paradigm shift). (6) The opportunity to access spaces of cooperation for development. (A Convention would promote the creation of financial and technical programs with the aim of implementing the content of the Convention.
She then presented the rights that she believes must be included for such a Convention to be a relevant instrument:
(1) The right to equality [vs exclusion] and the right to enjoy positive actions, differentiated treatment, and respect;
(2) The right to be valued and respected
(3) The right of a dignified life and death [ that death be recognized as a natural process; and access to palliative care services be provided for a dignified death].
(4) The right to integrity and a dignifying treatment [opposition to abuse in all its forms; especially relevant to women]
(5) The right to a preferential and differentiated treatment [different people require different types of physical and mental health, special needs, enjoyment of rights]
(6) The right to have their legal capacity, autonomy and independence recognized [allowing people to make their own decisions, choices, retain autonomy to make their own decisions]
(7) The right to an adequate standard of living and to social services. [She believes we need to do away with the charity paradign and make it shift to a social services paradigm which responds to the right of having access to services that in the long run will help to guarantee autonomy and independence]
(8) The right to physical and mental health
(9) Special rights for older women and for indigenous peoples. [Recognition of differences in life style and background demand that the Convention should seek equality through equity; recognizing special needs and differences]
(10) Other rights to be considered: political, social and cultural life in the community and spaces for real participation in the formulation of public policies and laws directly affecting older people in a civil society format. Thus, the right to education, the right to work; the right to social security and to other forms of social protection [It is essential to make social security/social protection resources equal for men and women; currently, retired men have better benefits than women]
Another speaker, Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly, and who was very
impressed by his grandparents [he claimed that his 91-year old grandmother still provides his ‘ethical compass’] to whom he still turns for advice, gave an impassioned plea for advocacy for the Convention on Human Rts for Older People. He is currently trying to promote the idea in the General Assembly. He also made the point that «life is a continuum» and thus
aging is «a lifelong process» in which we all have a stake. He spoke about how the increase in longevity means most people are leading healthier lives, but that it also leads to new challenges, so older persons must be included in making plans for «sustainable development goals»; everyone must be included in developing ideas for the future. He also spoke
about how it is finally time to «implement» all aspects of the Madrid Plan, now that it is 10 years old, especially
older people’s human rights [to battle against age discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence and develop a good
and accessible health care system]. He said that the General Assembly now has an open working group on aging!
Others called for adding issues of older persons to the Agenda of the General assembly now!
Rosemary Lane, who has been working on issues of aging since 1993, and was a member of the secretariat for the
Second World Assembly on Ageing in 2002, as well as a major contributor to the Madrid Plan, is now the UN Focal
Point on Aging and UN Senior Social Affairs Officer, provided an UPDATE: «Perspectives for the 10 Year Review
of the Madrid Plan.» There will reports every 5 years after this. She reviewed the various regions covered by the MP,
beginning w Africa and the emphasis on the «right to health.» But she says there was a low participation rate there over the past 5 years. There is a «low understanding between older persons and aging.» There is still significant poverty; discrimination, especially against older women. But the health budgets are geared mainly to children and pregnant women, even though there is a serious problem w communicable diseases among the old. Most think putting resources into the
arena of older people is a «waste of resources.» She also noted some good programs in Ethiopia and Gambia….
In contrast, most of the Asian and Pacific nations have plans. She found far more progress in that region, esp in the realm of social protection. But there is still a lack of financial resources, and other barriers. Priorities are expanding health coverage and access, and social security. And acknowleging that the traditional family system alone is not enough. Rather there is a need to involve older persons , to employ older persons.
In West Asia too many older persons are illiterate, poor, and in poor health. The decline of the extended family has
been taking its toll; no one is there to care for older persons. There is a lack of a framework for the future, just scattered efforts and a welfare-based approach.
In Latin America, there is widespread participation in the review and efforts to deal with inequality, though
inequality is very high. Also they are slow to adapt an adequate health system.
IN Europe: the recent Austrian conference showed a difference between the well-off Western European systems and the newer Eastern European ones. The recent economic crisis and Long term care are challenges. They are encouraging longer working lives, promoting health and independence. They see longevity as a success, but also a challenge. There is also a lack of political will esp in E Europe to implement the Madrid plan. There is also insufficient effort to include
older persons and their ideas for their own future. Thus, there is a need to have more consultation with older people
themselves. Conclusion: What should the focus be in the next 5 years? How to involve older persons in decision making to better implement the Madrid plan ideas.
There is a call for Global Action; and the need to establish firmly a Working Group on Aging in the General Assembly w the purpose of involving the input of each nation’s older people in public policy. Must move beyond the rhetoric to develop independence and rights.
Sergei Zelenev, Executive Director of the INt’l Council on Social Welfare, moderated but did not speak much. He introduced everyone well, and supported the idea of a Convention of Human rights for older persons.
One of most interesting speakers was: Dr. Mohini Giri, a 74-year old Older Indian woman, who has been a social activist, writer, scholar, and leader in the Women’s movment, specializing in human rights and gender justice, and the voice for women, peace and justice in India and So Asia. She is very concerned w older women’s issues, especially those of “widows” because, as she says, in India “widowhood is perceived as a stigma”…Most important, she says is “LOVE” which has disappeared from people’s consciousness; children don’t respect elders; they want to take over their property, and kick them out of their homes. This leads to lots of abuse. She claims that 40% of elderly have suffered abuse in India, because the young just want to make money. Even though India has laws requiring that children take care of parents…the laws are not implemented. That theme emerged many times: In general, Implementation seems to be a huge issue, even in nations w good laws. Mohini Giri also called for more “collective action,” like Gandhi preached. She pointed to some actions in India: demonstrations for higher pensions; young volunteers calling out to “Respect Age.” She emphasized that “no one can stop an idea whose time has come.” She claimed that we must create a new environment, change old perceptions and stereotypes, and that older people must be perceived as “agents of change.” Thus, laws and programs are not enough; they must be carefully implemented and monitored.
In particular, the speakers from Thailand and South Africa talked about the new policies they have put in place, and how they do work, but still there is not full implementation. However, the emphasis must be not only on policies alone, but on values, emotions and action and advocacy.
Dr. Jose Miguel Guzman, the Chief of the Population and Development Branch, of the UN Population Fund, recently oversaw the publication of a new book/booklet on population and development, Aging in the 21st Century: A Celebration and a Challenge. This was basically the theme of this conference.
There was a brief Video, showing the different older people around the globe…followed by Rosemary Lane’s review of the Madrid plan as the senior social affairs officer and UN Focal Point for the UN Dept of Econ and Soc Affairs. She provided a good summary and recommended the GUzman’s UN Booklet, “Ageing in the 21st Century: A Celebration and a Challenge” [produced by UNFPA], wh points out both the problems [the challenge] and praised the longevity wh has changed so much over the past decades. But of course, with longevity comes challenges: to use it, to enjoy it, to make it possible for Older people to take advantage of their “extra” years and not just “retire” to watch TV and read the papers. Most panelists spoke of challenging the older people to take charge of their lives and to seek out programs and advocate for more involvement in society, where their skills and knowledge and wisdom can be used; to demand more of a voice in decision making, especially for the programs developed for them, such as Age-Friendly cities, educational opportunities, and intergenerational programs, and specifically, to demand more jobs be open to senior citizens, and more human rights; and to demand more consideration of the real challenges for society: poverty, violence, and abuse, and better healthcare.
Last was a Panel: Airing a variety of perspectives on theme “Longevity Shapes the FUture» with speakers from So Africa, Latin America, India [Mohini Giri], and Thailand. Each spoke about and summarized his/her own project or national program in terms of the general themes of longevity, challenges and implementation, and efforts to involve
older persons in their own decision making. They all emphasized that the elderly are not helpless, and called for more
advocacy for those who live there. But a major challenge remains: the need to raise awareness of the Madrid Plan
among the older persons themselves.