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The next few days could change the lives of billions

23 Sep 2015

The next few days could quite literally change the lives of billions of people and shape the future of our planet.

At the end of this week, world leaders will gather in New York for the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015At the end of the meeting, heads of state and their governments are expected to adopt and commit to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that make up the global community's plan to end extreme poverty, tackle inequality and reduce the impact of climate change by 2030. They will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set at the turn of the century.

The goals and targets have been developed with an unprecedented level of civil society consultation and involvement. Critically, unlike the MDGs, these new goals are designed to be applicable for all people in all countries, rich and poor, whatever their geography or state of development. This unites all older people globally and many organisations around a single agenda.

Are older people included?

This is a particularly significant and positive moment for the world's current and future older population.

Not only does the sustainable development agenda pledge to "leave no one behind", but older age or older people are included directly or by implication in 15 of the goals and their targets with key phrases including "all ages", "older persons" and "lifelong".

The SDGs seem finally to have brought about an appreciation that all women and men share the same human rights as they age.

Goal 3 in particular, which commits to ensuring healthy lives and wellbeing for all at all ages, could be a huge breakthrough. It signals a potential beginning of the end to age discrimination within health systems.

Our involvement in New York

Sylvia with Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, 9 September 2015

We are proud and delighted that among the 24 civil societyrepresentatives invited to speak over the three-day event is Sylvia Beales from HelpAge International. Sylvia has been asked to address one of the five General Assembly plenaries in the course of the meeting.

Sylvia's personal achievement and contribution is impossible to overstate, and it is inspiring and fitting that her leadership of our global sustainable development advocacy has been recognised by this prestigious invitation.

Sylvia would be the first to recognise, however, that this invitation reflects a broader respect for the effectiveness and impact of our joint work as a global community over many years to amplify the issues of ageing and older people in the sustainable development agenda.

An opportunity for change

It is easy to be cynical about summits and declarations like this, and how they translate into tangible change in people's lives. However, this summit is not business as usual.

The Global Goals give us an unparalleled opportunity to bring older people fully into the picture. We can, and must, ensure that over the next 15 years the development agenda recognises and responds to the global phenomenon of population ageing, and supports women and men as they age.

What you can do to help

The hard work of ensuring that the SDGs are implemented and deliver on their commitment to older people will start the day after the summit.

What we ask that you support efforts to ensure the SDGs, and what they offer older people, reach as many people as possible worldwide.

We want to ensure older people are visible as the SDGs start to hit headlines and social media - the more people who know about the goals, the likelier leaders are to put them into practice. We will be tweeting and blogging this week, and we encourage you to do so too.

A thank you

Finally, and most importantly, thank you! A huge amount of talent and energy has gone into getting us to this point. Our success is the result of a tireless and sustained effort from everyone involved, especially those who have represented older people at the UN over the last few years.

In particular, I want us to remember a great advocate working with and for older people and our community of organisations: Mary Mayer, of the International Federation of Ageing.

Mary (pictured left) sadly died on 4 June this year, aged 90. Mary and her "super-advocate" friend Helen Hamlin were the faces and voices of our global campaign at countless sessions at the United Nations, and mission visits in between.

Mary Mayer with Helen Hamlin at the United Nations in New York, 2014 (c) HelpAge International

Thank you again and let us celebrate as a community the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, and what they aspire to achieve for our planet and for people of all ages.

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Author profile


Toby Porter
Country: UK
Job title: HelpAge Chief Executive Officer

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