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Leave no one behindů Including older people!

07 Feb 2014

The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals' eighth and last stocktaking session has been taking place at the UN headquarters this week. Participating in the event has been a mixed experience: one minute older people are completely side-lined and the very next they are back in the discussions.

However, one thing is clear to me: The world's older people and we, the organisations representing them, will have to keep speaking up if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are truly to leave no one behind.

One of the highlights this week was when 91-year-old Helen Hamlin member of the NGO Committee on Ageing NY and representative of the IFA stood up and reminded people in the room, including the president of the General Assembly, John Ashe, that older people are a resource not a burden who expect to be heard in this very important process: "Please include us in the operation of the various programmes" said Hamlin. There was much applause and strong recognition from President Ashe, who said that "older peoples' voices will be heard." 

Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, said that the current situation where the combined wealth of the richest 85 persons is larger than that of the poorest 50% in the world (see OXFAM's Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality) calls for a responsible egalitarian market economy based on universal policies to support innovation and inclusion.

This is more important than ever and rather than worrying about their cost "egalitarian responses are the only ones we can afford to have" the President said. Inequalities of income security are at the heart of cumulative disadvantage over the life course, so we very much support this statement from President Ahtisaari.

All in all, I leave the discussion optimistic. One of the co-organisers of the civil society OWG participation ensured me that "age is getting through; your interventions are noticed as they are to the point, based on evidence and speak to the lived experience of people." Very comforting, indeed.

The young and the old join up

We are very conscious, that working alone and isolated as a group won't take us far. And it doesn't make sense either. As the Open Working Group's technical support team's brief on inequalities prepared for this week's session stated: impacts of inequalities on capabilities "are often cumulative, irreversible and lifelong" (p.3). In doing so it makes the case that there needs to be an approach to capabilities which takes into account the whole life course. We cannot agree more.

Under the auspices of the Millennium Campaign, HelpAge, the NGO Committee on Ageing and the UN Major Group for Children and Youth organised an informal discussion with member states, UN agencies and stakeholder on how to take an age inclusive approach to the new framework.

Avoiding siloed approaches and a number of options to support the practicalities of leaving no one behind were discussed. It's the start of a number of conversations and it is indeed very energising!

Read the background paper prepared for informal discussion with member states.

More work to be done in NY and in countries

The work to ensure inclusion of older people in the SDGs continues next week at the Commission for Social Development. Highlights for the advocates for the ageing community will be the brown bag lunch, "Leaving no one behind - including older people in the post 2015 framework" organised by the UNDP poverty group where we'll be presenting the Global AgeWatch Index; as well as the side event we are organising with much appreciated support from the Finnish Government.

Obviously, the SDG process is not just secluded to the UN building here in New York. Over the coming months, we will be working with our network across the world to ensure that Governments know the importance of including older people in the SDG framework. If you're interested in learning more about how to get involved in this campaign, please do get in touch.

Want to know more?

Visit the post-2015 section of our website and read our key messages.

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Author profile

Sylvia Beales
Country: UK
Job title: Head of Strategic Alliances

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