The world population is passing through a demographic transition. Ageing is going to be the distinctive trait of this century, with the share of older individuals in the population ever increasing. While ageing represents a triumph of medical, social and economic advances, it also presents challenges to existing systems of social support and affects virtually all domains of society. Member countries of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) gave new momentum to the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and its Regional Implementation Strategy by joining forces in the Working Group on Ageing. The Working Group met for its constituent meeting in Geneva, 1-2 December and adopted an ambitious programme of work to tackle the challenges of ageing societies in Europe, North America and Central Asia.
“The high attendance rate of government experts shows that Governments across the UNECE region are taking serious steps towards finding policy solutions to ageing-related challenges”, said Miloslav Hettes of the Slovakian Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family who chaired the meeting. After two days of discussion, representatives from the United States to Kyrgyzstan, from the United Kingdom to Malta concluded their programme of work, which will guide their efforts until 2010. The development of indicators will be intensified to generate better yardsticks to measure the success of the policy efforts. Member States agreed to put more effort into translating research results into advice for policymaking. For this purpose, a new format of policy briefs is being developed to break down complex issues to the needs of policymakers, advising them on cutting-edge policy options.
The meeting also showed that countries already have numerous good policy practices in place. For example, France presented its national plan Bien vieillir as an innovative integrated framework on health related aspects of ageing, including healthy living and quality of life for older persons. UNECE member countries were keen to know about such good practices, as inspiration for developing their own strategies.
The meeting of the Working Group reiterated that countries face different ageing related dynamics and that they have different abilities to address them. Capacity development will therefore become a priority during the coming two years. Two training workshops are planned to take place in Eastern Europe and Central Asia during that time. International experts will also make direct contributions to developing concrete action, based on an in-depth appraisal of the situation in selected countries. As an innovative approach to developing capacities, Country Road Maps on ageing will be implemented during the next two years. Coordinated by the UNECE secretariat and involving international and local experts, these detailed action plans will suggest concrete steps to be taken within specified timelines to improve the policy framework on ageing in a country in need of capacity building. Implementation will be evaluated after one year.
Indicator development, policy briefs and capacity building – these are just three components of a comprehensive agenda that countries have set for themselves for the coming two years. The ambitious programme shows the commitment of member States to work together in tackling ageing-related policy concerns. “Learning from each other through exchanges in the Working Group entails great potential for finding suitable solutions adapted to a country’s circumstances”, says Andres Vikat, Chief of the UNECE Population Unit: “I believe that UNECE member States have the knowledge, ideas and courage to address the challenges ahead successfully. These resources need to be used now, to prepare for the demographic change ahead of us”.
The next meeting of the Working Group on Ageing will take place in November 2009. Detailed information, including country experiences presented during the meeting, can be downloaded from the Conference website: www.unece.org/pau/age/wg.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Andres Vikat
Chief, Population Activities Unit
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 2764
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0107