UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka has urged governments to urgently implement strategies that will protect the world’s ageing population which currently stands at 600 million people.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said that it was critical to note that the process of accomplishing longer life globally has not been matched with equal improvements in living standards. There is a very real danger of having an ageing population that may suffer untold socio-economic injustices.
“Some very recent research reveals that large urban centres particularly in the developing world will have worsening housing and living conditions at a level far beyond our present estimates and imagination. Under such circumstances, it is not a difficult prediction that vulnerable and disadvantaged groups including the older persons will suffer most,” said the Executive Director.
The remarks were made in a speech read on her behalf by Axumite Gebre-Egziabher, the Director UN-HABITAT Liaison Office, New York during the International Conference on Caring Communities for the 21st Century – Imagining the Possible “Age of connectivity: Cities, Magnets of Hope” on 9 February.
The conference is part of a series of Interlinked Congresses addressing the “Age of Longevity” held in cities around the globe and is organized in coordination with United Nations partners: Programme for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat), Programme on Ageing, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Department of Public Information; World Olympians Association, NGOs, and the private sector. The “Age of Connectivity” interrelates basic elements that influence human quality of life -- family, education, health, housing, multi-levels of government, and the ICT Information Highway – and creates a unique opportunity to encourage a quality blueprint for an enriched “Society for All Ages.”
Mrs. Tibaijuka said significant advances in medicine, science and human and civil rights have made it possible for people to live longer lives and that one out of every ten people in the world is 60 years or older. This figure is set to triple by 2050.
“Out of approximately 600 million older persons in the world today, 370 million are in the developing countries.” She continued that in these countries by 2020, the proportion will have increased to 70 per cent of about one billion older persons. “In the five decades ahead, the number of persons over 60 in the developing world will multiply 9 times and the share living in urban areas will increase by 16 times. It is a clear picture; cities in developing countries will have more and more old persons,” said the Executive Director.
Mrs. Tibaijuka emphasized the role of local governments in developing and implementing policies that would ensure that all human beings are valued and enabled to contribute to national development rather than to simply be passive beneficiaries of it.
She said: “As the pace of population ageing is much faster in developing countries than in the developed world and since this process is taking place at a much lower level of socio-economic development, formulation of the above mentioned effective policies and realistic strategies is very important and urgent.”
Mrs. Tibaijuka stressed that it is at the local level that policies can be turned into reality and in effect improve living conditions of all people, including older persons and called on development stakeholders at the grassroots level to work in partnership with governments in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of improving the living and housing conditions of the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.