MORE ABOUT IYOP
In 1992 the United Nations General Assembly decided, "in recognition of humanitys demographic coming of age and the promise it holds for maturing attitudes and capabilities in social, economic, cultural and spiritual undertakings, not least for global peace and development in the next century" (resolution 47/5), to declare 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons (IYOP). The theme of this year is Towards a society for all ages.
Since 1959, World Refugee Year, the UN has designated specific years in order to draw attention to important issues. Governments of Member States, assisted by civil society, are encouraged to take the themes as opportunities to raise awareness and promote policy initiatives among citizens (The same rationale is applied to a lengthy list of annual days and special decades). IYOP has already attracted the interest of a broad range of organizations.
The underlying framework for the International Year of Older Persons is the International Plan of Action on Aging, the first major international instrument on aging which was endorsed by the General Assembly in 1982 (following the World Assembly on Aging of that year). The subsequent UN Principles for Older Persons, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December, 1991 (resolution 46/91) may be divided into five different clusters of relevant issues: independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity. Working within that framework, the focus of this year has been developed into four themes: the situation of older persons, individual lifelong development, relationships between the generations and, finally, the interrelationship of population aging and development.
Given that 590 million persons will be 60 years of age or older in the year 2000, IYOP should encourage Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to take advantage of the Year to increase awareness of the challenges and opportunities presented by the demographic aging of societies, the individual and community needs of older persons, their contributions to society, and the need for changes in attitudes towards older persons.
The work of many UN Agencies and programmes has direct connections with aging issues and will reflect IYOP priorities. That is certainly true for the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The UN has also set up a United Nations IYOP Secretariat within the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York.
The success of the Plan of Action of the International Year of Older Persons will depend largely on the direct actions undertaken by Governments and on their ability to engage the many institutions and organizations that serve or otherwise involve seniors in their respective countries. In Canada, the Division of Aging and Seniors of Health Canada will play a lead role during this coming year, along with similar offices established in every provincial jurisdiction. There will also be concerted efforts on the part of many seniors organizations, for whom this year provides a tremendous focal point around which to advance their concerns and aspirations.
The theme of this International Year, however - Towards a Society for All Ages - elicits the full engagement of all segments of society. It calls for "solidarity", "respect" and "exchanges" between generations. It calls for opportunities to share between the young and the not so young such that each may learn from the other. If the objectives of the Year are to be realized it requires the involvement of the whole population in order to create a strong partnership between all ages.
A wide range of activities will occur during the international year. They should run the gamut from serious academic and policy development conferences to artistic festivals to small community and neighbourhood gatherings. Many will be local in nature and open to anyone who is interested. You can consult seniors organizations in your community with respect to their plans and look for opportunities to integrate IYOP objectives into other initiatives.
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