NGO Committee on Ageing and UN DESA mark the International Day of Older Persons, stress human rights of the ageing

New York City, 31 October 2020 (CoNGO InfoNews) – “Older persons must be a priority and we must expand opportunities for their involvement,” according to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at the opening of a meeting on October 1, 2020, to mark the UN International Day of Older Persons.  Organized by the NGO Committee on Ageing (New York) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the on-line meeting addressed the question “Pandemics:  How Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?”

Set in the context of the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse and the Midwife and its Decade of Health Ageing 2020-2030, the meeting, viewed online by some 3500 people, was hosted by the International Federation on Aging and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations in collaboration with the Group of Friends of Older Persons.

President of the UN General Assembly Ambassador Volkan Bozkir, in his video message to the meeting, pointed out that the seventy fifth anniversary of the United Nations will forever be remembered as the year of COVID-19.  Calling on all member states to reach out to older persons, he added: “We are only as safe as the most vulnerable members of society.”

Also addressing the meeting, the chair of the UN Commission on Social Development, Argentine ambassador Maria del Carmen Squeff stressed the need for added protections for the human rights of older persons.

Cynthia Stuen, chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing (New York) and UN representative of the  International Federation on Ageing, provided a historical overview of the UN’s attention to ageing issues, paying tribute to the late Julia T. Alvarez, known as “the Ambassador of Ageing”  to the UN, and to those UN agencies and NGO Committees which had helped put the issue of ageing on the UN agenda. Among the highlights: the First (1982) and Second (2002) World Assemblies on Ageing, the adoption of the UN Principles for Older Persons (1991), the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (2002), the International Year of Older Persons (1999),  International Year of Older Persons (1999, and the Sustainable Development Goals (2015).

“This pandemic,” Ms. Stuen concluded, “is a human rights issue.” The Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) must be “one of action and a reminder that older persons’ rights are human rights,” she added.

Also featured on the programme were an address by Elizabeth Iro, Chief Nursing Officer at the World Health Organization, on the four actions called for in the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030), and an interactive dialogue among five panellists, moderated by Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing. In the panel were Peggy Hicks, of the office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights; Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health Equity, University College London; John K. Shakpeh, Director of Nursing at Redemption Hospital, Monrovia. Liberia; Jean Accius, of AARP International, and Ritu Sadana, from the World Health Organization.

Concluding remarks came from the First Lady of Chile, Cecelia Morel Montes, on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, and Masumi Ono, on behalf of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The programme was chaired by Martha Bial, with co-chair, Bette Levy, both leaders of the NGO Committee on Ageing (New York). Generous contributions from IFA, AARP and M&T Bank made this observance possible.

The NGO Committee on Ageing in New York is one of more than thirty substantive committees of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO). There are also counterpart committees on ageing in Geneva and Vienna.

View entire programme.
See UN story about the event.
See flyer and program schedule of the event.
See postcard of event.
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