Social Development Body Recommends Principles to Protect the Elderly

UN Chronicle, June 1991 | Go to article overview

Social Development Body Recommends Principles to Protect the Elderly


Legal protection for the rights of the elderly emerged as a key issue of the Commission for Social Development (11-21 February, Vienna). The 32-member Commission recommended that the Economic and Social Council--its parent body--transmit a resolution to the General Assembly, by which the new United Nations Principles for Older Persons would be adopted.

The text, sponsored by 16 countries, asked the Assembly to recommended a two-day international conference on ageing during its 1992 session to consolidate targets on ageing for the year 2001 and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the 1982 International Plan of Action on Ageing, on which the Principles are based.

It would also encourage special attention to implementing the action programme on ageing for 1992 and beyond, as endorsed by the Assembly in December 1990. At that time, the Assembly designated 1 October as the International Day for the Elderly.

The 18 principles aim to ensure for the ageing, equal access to the necessities of life in a environment free of discrimination and abuse and which encourages their integration into society in a fulfilling manner. Their purpose--"to add life to the years that have been added to life"--encompasses the thematic areas of independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity.

The text calls for older persons to have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, health care, and educational and training programmes. They should be able to reside at home as long as possible and remain integrated in society by sharing their skills and knowledge and serving as volunteers, it is stated.

A 'grey revolution'

Julia Tavares de Alvarez of the Dominican Republic, a leading proponent in the Commission of the rights of older persons, said on 11 February that a "grey revolution" was already under way. She noted that the percentage of the aged in the population was expected to reach almost 15 per cent of the world population before the year 2025, with 60 per cent of the elderly population residing in developing countries.

Among the other topics discussed this year by the Commission were the International Year of the Family (1994), the world social situation, disabled persons, Africa's critical social situation, the integration of young people into society, strategies for social development cooperation and the interrelationship between economic growth and human welfare.

The Commission, which meets every two years to review the global social situation and UN activities in the field of social development and social welfare, approved 13 texts during its two-week session, including a request tot he Secretary-General to identify the Vienna-based Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs as the social policy focal point for countries undergoing economic and social adjustments.

Commission Chairman Elsie Mbella Ngomba of Cameron asked that measures be defined to protect society's most vulnerable groups. Meaningful social progress required international commitment through respect for human life and the positive aspects of social and cultural diversities and values. …

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