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People go first at the UN

10 Feb 2011

UN Headquarters in New YorkI am currently at the Commission for Social Development, held at the UN in New York. 

It's looking a little old on the outside, the paving stones are broken, the 1950s interior has lost much of its glamour and dripping scaffolding masks the walkways and views. 

But on the inside, the UN is still bubbling with ambitious plans to eradicate poverty and deliver human rights. 

Building a poverty-free world

The UN - like people - has not collapsed as it has matured but has readapted and reinvented itself and built on its experience and wisdom. 

There is a lot of support from governments for the ILO/WHO Social Protection Floor which focuses on building wealth through people. It argues that social protection - income, health, education and Decent Work from cradle to grave - is the way to build a strong and poverty-free world.

But there is also the concern that the food, energy and economic crisis is forcing the closure of welfare reforms and will damage future generations. UNICEF Recovery for All campaign is highlighting the impact of cutting back on benefits on the poor.

Age-friendly lens

Taking an age-friendly lens is on everyone lips. If you can deliver rights, services and infrastructure for the oldest 25% of the population you will make life good for all; now and in the future. To build issues of old age into our systems and age proof services and supplies we need to talk to older people: 

Is the food in internally displaced persons' camps suitable? Can they get to see the doctor? Are the right drugs there? Are there seats in the park? Is there training and help with getting jobs?

In New York, they started with age friendly services, transport, parks etc... When they sat down and talked about what users said about their services, they realised there was a lot they could do by changing the taxi fleet or reset the traffic lights.

Let's hope we can work this attitude into our work here at the UN!

Read more about our work on older people's rights.

Your comments

Onunkwo Olisaeloka Gabriel

Thank you for your tireless effort to put smile on the faces of our senior citizens. Father will reward. I am not educated but i believe that i can be of help. please use me also.

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Author profile


Jane Scobie
Country: UK
Job title: Head of Network Development

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.