ICSW and partners convene the Conference on social protection of older persons in Latin America

from Global Newsletter - November 2017

The international conference convened in Santo Domingo on 29-30 November focused on a range of options in Latin America and the Caribbean concerning social protection policies designed for older persons. Apart from the hosts— participants from the Dominican Republic, who represented various branches of the government as well as non-governmental organizations, the speakers came from several other countries in the region -- Mexico, Colombia and Uruguay, as well as from regional organizations (PAHO). The issues on the agenda included the demographic transition, the rights of older persons, the sustainability of social security arrangements, health care policies for the aged and other matters that are important in the context of the ageing process in the region.

Underscoring the significance of demographic change and a number of challenges stemming from the growing number of older persons, Nelsida Marmolejos, DIDA Director and regional president of ICSW for the Latin American region drew the attention of the participants to the increased life expectancy in the region owing to the improvements in health care and lower fertility. She emphasized the need to better inform older persons of all options available to them, as well as the need to provide legal assistance to the elderly in defending their rights.

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In her introductory remarks, Eva Holmberg-Herrstrom, President of the ICSW, said that ageing and related policies represent an important part of ICSW activities around the world. People in many countries where we are working see ageing issues as crucial contemporary issues, given that the world population is ageing. ICSW raises its voice against age discrimination and rejects ageing stereotypes, in which older persons are depicted in negative terms, as a burden to society. Older persons are very active and fully integrated in many countries; they are seen as a source of wisdom and experience. Abuse and violence against older persons must be made punishable by law everywhere. She referred to her native country Sweden as an example of progressive attitudes towards older persons, with independence and “ageing in place” as the norm, with national policies supporting active ageing and general well- being.

Mirtha Sosa Crevoisier, Vice-President of ICSW, spoke at length about the opportunities and challenges of ageing in the region. She draw examples from her native country Uruguay to provide vivid illustrations of the active role that older citizens play in society. She emphasized the important role played by social protection in her country in ensuring health coverage and providing basic income.

Sergei Zelenev, Executive Director of ICSW, underscored that the dignity of older persons must be an important consideration in all discussions on ageing. Human dignity has long been recognized as a key UN principle for older persons. Apart from its moral connotations, it is also a legal principle at the core of all major human rights documents. The adoption of Agenda 2030 created a new momentum in promoting the dignity and worth of older persons. Universal social protection, one of the key goals of ICSW, remains an important priority for national action; it facilitates the realization of basic rights and is vital for upholding the dignity of all members in society, including the elderly. The speaker also covered such issues as the inclusion, participation and empowerment of older persons, outlining specific measures required for such purposes so as to improve the plight of older persons. A gender dimension, with women often bearing the brunt of double discrimination -- as women and as older persons—must also not be overlooked in all discussions on ageing.

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The participants also discussed at length issues relating to pension reform, the provision of social services, health care and other matters pertinent to ageing policies.