By Navdha Malhotra
HelpAge International received the prestigious 2012 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize on 16 April in Washington. The award was given by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation at a special ceremony at the 2012 Global Philanthropy Forum annual conference in Washington.
The award is the world's largest humanitarian prize, and is presented each year to an organisation that has delivered extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering.
Older people are their own best advocates
Steven M. Hilton, CEO and president of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, presented the award to HelpAge International CEO Richard Blewitt. He said: "Over the past three decades, HelpAge International has demonstrated that older people are their own best advocates and with support can claim their rights to healthcare, social services and security.
"HelpAge's work is even more urgent today as the world faces a monumental demographic shift, particularly in developing countries where the proportion of older people is growing fastest. By 2050 nearly one in five people in developing countries will be over age 60."
Draw attention to the global ageing challenge
HelpAge CEO, Richard Blewitt said: "It is a great honour to receive the Hilton Prize and join such a prestigious (c) Conrad N Hilton Foundation group of Hilton Prize Laureates. The Prize is especially meaningful to draw the world's attention to the historic transformation being brought about by global ageing and the plight of millions of older people who face overwhelming hurdles every day."
The Hilton Foundation's recognition of the global ageing challenge is timely. Worldwide we are living longer and having fewer children. By 2050, more than two billion people in developing countries will be aged 65 and over, more than three times the number today. This global ageing shift is without parallel in human history.
He said: "In the years since, I have come to understand the need to work across generations - both in immediate relief and in longer- term development. Today, I am shocked when I see how few resources are allocated to older people. Compared to other vulnerable groups, they are neglected. And, as I learn more every day, this gap is not just a matter of a moral lapse. It is a short-sighted view of the world that will lead to financial disaster. Truly, we fail both our ethical and economic obligations when we ignore ageing populations.
Lack of public health program for older people
"There is no UN agency dedicated to older people. How is it that we have a serious, planned and effective immunization program for children - a wonderful achievement of public health in many countries globally, but nothing of the sort for ageing adults?
"There are only very few NGOs helping older people in poor countries. In contrast, there are hundreds of organisations doing great work with children. We must all move to a life course perspective in all our work."
A tribute to ageing populations
Richard Blewitt said: "Receiving this award is a major opportunity for HelpAge. We believe that it will help us shine a light on older people in the developing world, on their contributions as well as their needs. This is a responsibility too, to fulfill the trust that the Hilton Foundation has put in us. Recognising that the ageing challenge calls for the broadest possible response, we want to work collaboratively, forming alliances with like-minded partners.
"This award is a tribute to the millions of older people throughout the world who struggle daily with extreme poverty and discrimination. By their achievements and example, they have made the world a better place for their grandchildren and ours. This award is theirs and it is our privilege to support them."
Download Richard's full acceptance speech for the Hilton Humanitarian Prize.