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Marginalised older people make their voices heard at UK Parliament

15 Nov 2013

Last week, HelpAge International, Sightsavers, ADD International and Alzheimer's Disease International launched the results of their collaborative research project ‘We can also make change'. Chaired by Fiona O'Donnell MP, the event highlighted the need to put the voices of older people and people living with disabilities at the heart of the post-2015 process.

The participatory research showcased at the event was carried out in Bangladesh and forms part of the Participate programme being led by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The research was exceptional because it was carried out by people from the communities themselves and shows rare insights into how extreme poverty affects older people and people with disabilities.

Speakers at the event included Lipi Rahman, a researcher from HelpAge Affiliate in Bangladesh, Resource Integration Centre; Mosharaff Hossain, Bangladesh Country Director for ADD; Danny Burns, lead researcher of the Participate project at the IDS; and David Hallam, the UK Prime Minister's Special Envoy for the post-2015 process.

MDGs must be replaced by something better for older people

Aside from some moving examples of discrimination and abuse in Bangladesh, most notable were the comments of Mr Hallam on how the post-2015 framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can address these issues.

It was encouraging to hear Mr Hallam mention that there is a "clear case" for the MDGs to be replaced by something that is better for older people, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems. He added that the post-2015 framework should address, for example, equality of opportunity, access to public services, and freedom from violence, none of which were mentioned in the MDGs.

He recognised that "we need to learn lessons from the MDGs" and to focus on the situation of the most marginalised rather than just the aggregate figures when assessing the MDGs' successes. Mr Hallam also highlighted some of the recommendations from the UN High Level Panel report which was published earlier this year, stating that the panel had "missed a trick" in omitting to mention the ageing population.

We welcome the bold and ambitious recommendations to "leave no one behind" and the call for a data revolution both of which have the potential to improve lives of people of all ages and abilities around the world.

Finally, Mr Hallam also stressed the importance of a human rights based approach: "The next framework must protect people's rights, by including issues such as legal identity, ensuring governments are open and accountable, and ensuring freedom of expression," he said, adding that: "None of this is going to work if the areas in which older people are discriminated against aren't included, for example, property rights, the right to freedom from violence, and gender equality."

The power of participation

Public participation is the key to ensuring good governance and enabling institutions to address poverty as mentioned by the High Level Panel in Goal 10. The methods piloted in ‘We can also make change' show innovative ways of ensuring that that the most marginalised people are included in policy discussions and evidence gathering.

It is important that the data revolution not only become a quantitative "numbers'" revolution but also a qualitative revolution using some of the methods developed in this research and by the Participate network. Only this way will we fully understand the many challenges of people living in extreme poverty.

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Author profile

Kate Horstead
Country: United Kingdom
Job title: Policy Adviser, Age International

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