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Making Sustainable Development work for All Ages: Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Prosperity for Older Persons

Intervention by Secretary Ariel González Serafini

July 14th

Thank you very much Rosemary.

Dear colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for the Permanent Mission of Argentina to participate and co-sponsor this side event, and in that sense we thank the organizers, UNDP, UNDESA, AARP and HelpAge International, as well as to the other co-sponsors, for inviting us to be here and address to you today.

Allow me to make some brief points with regards to the scenario that we see regarding the situations of older persons and sustainable development, before referring to how we address the issue from our national perspective in the implementation of Agenda 2030.

As you all know, Argentina is a champion of the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons, and we have been consistently making the point that the enjoyment of those rights diminishes with age due to structural discrimination and negative notions and harmful stereotypes against older persons, which makes us picture them as less valuable individuals, subject to special protection measures and a burden to the economies and younger generations rather than as specific right holders and active contributors to our societies. Furthermore, it is clear than the current framework of international human rights law and the human rights treaty body system does not sufficiently address the protection and promotion of the human rights of older persons due to the lack of adequate and specific international standards and provisions towards the protection of those rights, which would help in establishing clearly State´s obligations with regards to the protection of the human rights of older persons and to develop and enforce legislation, policies and measures to protect those rights, as well as national and international compliance, accountability and redress mechanisms.

Now, why do we make this point in relation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda? Because of two main reasons: first, due to the fact that human rights are supposed to be mainstreamed across the implementation of the Agenda and the attainment of the SDGs, promoting shared prosperity, respecting the human rights and dignity of all persons, and leaving no one behind. And leaving no one behind in our view doesn´t only refers to the beneficiaries of sustainable development, but also the agents of change. And that takes me to the second reason why it is fundamental to make this link between the full enjoyment of the human rights of older persons and attaining the SDGs, particularly eradicating poverty. Older persons constitute the fastest growing segment of the population, mainly due to the gains of development in the last 50 years. Population ageing is a mega trend, and it´s happening all over the world, both in developed and in developing countries, with the fastest rate of growth in the latter ones. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of older persons globally will reach more than 1.4 billion people, and there will be more older persons worldwide than children or youth.

From a demographic and developmental point of view, this is a factor than cannot be ignored. How can we attain real and actually sustainable development in all our societies if we do not engage that significant segment of the population both as agents and beneficiaries of change? If we fail to include older persons as active agents, as well as the issues that affect them into our efforts to implement Agenda 2030, the sustainability of our efforts will be diluted and lost in time. It is alarming for us, and it certainly was a disappointment, that the international community, and particularly Member States, did not find consensus on including specific references to older persons in Agenda 2030. Only 1% of the Goals and Targets include specific or implicit references to older persons. And let me reiterate this point: this is a segment of the population that will reach 20% of most societies in years to come.

So, in that framework, it is up to us, individual Member States with the primary responsibility to implement Agenda 2030, as well as all the stakeholders that also participate in the implementation: UN agencies, private sector, civil society, academia and others, to increase our efforts to mainstream the needs and rights of older persons, as well as the issues which affect them, into our strategies, policies and programmes for implementing the Agenda and attaining the SDGs.

It is also key to develop strategic partnerships with all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure the full enjoyment of the human rights of older persons. That way, they will be fully empowered to participate effectively in social, economic, cultural and political life, being both agents and beneficiaries of change, and we will all be able to seize the substantive contributions that they can make to sustainable development. Not leaving them behind doesn´t only mean to address their needs and mainstream their rights throughout the implementation of the Agenda, it also entails empowering them to be able to bring on board the tremendous potential for contributions that such a large sector of world´s population can make.

In that framework, Argentina is fully committed with the implementation, follow-up and review of Agenda 2030, and we´ll be making our Voluntary Presentation to the HLPF next Tuesday. In that sense, we have created an inter-ministerial coordinating council in charge of implementing the Agenda and monitoring the progress in attaining the SGDs. We also analyzed and aligned the objectives of the Agenda to our Government´s main lines of action, one of which is the eradication of poverty, which is also the overarching goal of Agenda 2030.

With regards to the specific linkage between the attainment of SDG1 and older persons, it is imperative to include in our strategy to implement the Agenda, as well as in the development of indicators to measure the progres, the link between poverty and older persons. We know  about the high incidence of poverty among this particular social group, due to several factors, such as lack of social protection systems, lack of access to the labour market, financial abuse, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination (particularly against older women), and many others. In that sense, for Argentina any strategy towards the eradication of poverty must include specific and tailored measures to address the high prevalence of poverty among older persons.

In our efforts to implement Agenda 2030, we have also designed, at the national and local level, a set of indicators to measure the progress in eradicating poverty for older persons, which include the proportion of older persons (women aged 60+ and men aged 65+, which are the ages of retirement in Argentina) that receive a fixed income in the form of a universal pension; and the proportion of older persons who benefit from universal social protection programmes and free access to health and social services. We have proposed at the UN Statistical Commission that these two indicators be a part of the Level I indicators of the IAEG-SGD for measuring progress in achieving SDG1.

Furthermore, in our strategy to implement Agenda 2030, there is a clear provision in the sense of incorporating a series of cross-cutting issues, such as gender, human rights, ageing and the right of older persons, disability, civil society participation, and others, across the efforts to achieve all Goals and Targets.

Dear colleagues, in sum, we should mainstream the trend of population ageing worldwide, as well as the rights and needs of older persons, throughout the implementation and follow-up, including indicators, of the entire 2030 Agenda, all goals and targets, which are oriented to people, planet and prosperity. And if we talk about people, we cannot afford to overlook the huge potential that older persons can offer.

I thank you.

Fondo argentino de cooperación sur-sur y triangular