Donor Community Should Negotiate Debt Relief to Release Funds For Social Services, Meeting on Ageing Recommends

United Nations Population Fund
Contact: in New York:
William A. Ryan

The ICPD+5 review process

Experts Say Effects of Structural Adjustment Programmes on Older Persons and Women Must Be Evaluated

BRUSSELS, 9 October 1998 -- International donors should consider renegotiating the external debts of poor countries to release funds for social services for older persons, participants at the Technical Meeting on Population Ageing recommended as they concluded here. The recommendation came from the working group on economic issues. Other recommendations were adopted on meeting older persons' needs with regard to health care and social services, demography, research and training.

About 40 experts took part in the four-day meeting, which was part of "ICPD+5", the review of the achievements of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Population and Family Study Centre (CBGS), a Flemish Scientific Institute in Brussels, it reviewed the experiences of developed countries in population ageing to identify practices that can be adopted by developing nations.

The meeting featured the presentation of some 20 technical papers, followed by working group meetings and a panel discussion on country policies, poverty and gender aspects of ageing. Papers were presented in six sessions on: the Process, Dimensions and Prospects of Ageing; Promotion and Maintenance of Health in Later Life (6 October); Support Systems for the Elderly; Special Needs (7 October); and the Economic and Social Policy Implications of an Older Society (8-9 October). The meeting was opened on 6 October by the General Director of the CBGS, Robert Cliquet, who described population ageing as one of the important issues of the ICPD as well as for the industrialized nations and their developing counterparts.

On the meeting's final day, participants made other recommendations on economic issues. For example, they proposed that governments and international organizations integrate into development strategies the economic and social consequences of ageing, and consider relations between children, younger and older adults.

Governments and international organizations should establish gender-sensitive population policies where fertility is below replacement level and ageing is advancing, the meeting proposed. These should aim to provide wider access to education, reproductive health services, job creation and adequate housing, and to remove barriers that prevent older persons from continuing to work.

The meeting recommended various mechanisms to enable ageing persons to leave the workforce gradually, including job redesign, flexible pension arrangements, temporary or home-office work and mentoring. It also called for: strengthened state provision of social and health services, particularly for the elderly, women and children; access to small-scale credit schemes to enable older people to participate in income-generating programmes; and greater research into economic transfers between younger and older people and the contributions of the latter to the labour market.

Noting the inequitable impact of structural adjustment policies on older persons and women, the working group on health care and social services recommended that economic reforms be evaluated for their effects on vulnerable groups.

Participants also called on governments not to abandon their commitment to providing basic services, clean water, adequate nutrition, housing, access to work, health care, transportation and healthy environments. They agreed that the reproductive health of all people, especially women, should be ensured throughout their life course, because of its importance to the quality of life at older stages.

Governments should encourage older persons to use local health facilities as part of prevention programmes and to promote healthier lifestyles, participants recommended. They should promote equitable access and help health care workers reach the elderly. Recognizing the social, economic and cultural disadvantages faced by care givers who are mainly female, they stressed that authorities and non-governmental organizations should design appropriate strategies to end pay inequities and to give those workers recognition.

In closing remarks, the Director of UNFPA's Technical and Policy Division, Mohammed Nizamuddin, expressed regret that the Executive Director, Dr. Nafis Sadik, could not attend the meeting as scheduled. Many of the ideas generated at the meeting will be useful to UNFPA's programming, he said, particularly in shaping his division's next four-year programming cycle.

The General Director of CBGS, Robert Cliquet, said his institute will publish the meeting's proceedings. Participants should be optimistic that their recommendations will be put to good use. He will follow-up on those proposals as a member of Belgium's delegations to some of the upcoming ICPD+5 events.

As part of the ICPD+5 process, UNFPA has sponsored a series of technical meetings and round-table discussions, leading up to an international forum on ICPD implementation, to be held in February 1999 in The Hague, Netherlands. The report on the meeting on ageing will be consolidated into a document for review by the Hague Forum and as background for the Secretary-General's report to a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on post-ICPD progress, to be held in June-July 1999.

The just-concluded meeting was held a week after this year's International Day of Older Persons,, during which the United Nations declared 1999 the International Year of Older Persons. Ageing also is one of the main themes of UNFPA's flagship publication, The State of World Population 1998, entitled "The New Generations".

(For information purposes only. Not an official document.)

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