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At the UN: Pushing to get older people included in sustainable development goals

19 Jun 2014

Our partner NGO Committee on Ageing speaks at the OWGThis week I'm at the 12th session of the UN's Open Working Group (OWG) on sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The SDGs will build upon the Millennium Development Goals which expire in 2015.

This time around things have taken a slightly different and unexpected turn.

Unlike other sessions of the OWG, at the last minute this week was transformed into a series of ‘informal' sessions for Member States.

While this is challenging - as it limits what we can do and say while we're here in the UN - what started off as a frustrating week is now showing some positive signs.

At the beginning of June, the co-chairs of the OWG published a zero draft for the SDGs framework.

We were alarmed to discover that older people had not been adequately included.

Our first major concern was about the removal of women ‘of all ages' from a gender-focused target on ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls, despite the multiple forms of discrimination women face in older age.

Secondly, we were unhappy about the weakening of a target on non-communicable diseases, which has always been problematic as it focuses solely on people between the ages of 30 and 70, despite older people accounting for three-quarters of deaths from NCDs in low and middle income countries.

Glimmers of good news

With discussions on half of the proposed goals for the post-2015 framework discussed last week, outside of the OWG session, catching up has been tricky.

However, some good news came on Tuesday night when in an evening session the co-chairs from Kenya and Hungary presented a new draft set of targets under the poverty eradication goal.

We were delighted to see the explicit inclusion of ‘people of all ages' in a target to reduce the proportion of people living below national poverty definitions.

Another positive change was the amendment of a social protection target to include the implementation of universal social protection - crucial in ensuring people's income security in older age.

In a discussion of these targets with Member States, the Kenyan Ambassador drew specific attention to the importance of including ‘people of all ages' in the framework given the very real ‘greying of societies' and the common exclusion of people in older age from development interventions. We couldn't agree more - this must be avoided.

We are still waiting to see what the next draft targets will look like in other crucial areas of the framework but we hope to see positive changes coming through.

Waiting and working

While we wait, we have been working hard with other major NGOs here in New York to deliver a strong statement on health on Wednesday.

The statement highlighted the discriminatory nature of an NCD target focused only on people between the ages of 30 and 70 and made a strong call for data collected on health, and other targets, to be disaggregated by age and sex.

For the rest of the week while we patiently await sight of new draft targets in other areas our job is to continue to work with our colleagues in the Stakeholder Group on Ageing to deliver our key messages and to push for the stronger targets under poverty eradication to be maintained in the next full draft of proposed goals and targets for post 2015.

Our work continues...

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Rachel Albone
Job title: HIV and AIDS Policy Advisor

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