Advancing Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity
"It is important to create effective global partnerships
between developed and developing countries and NGOS"
"Social integration is to create a society for all."
“It is important to create a critical mass for change”
“Needs for ‘human rights and development’ is crucial and global.”
by Hande SUBASILAR, Alternate Representative of
The Light Millennium to the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.
United Nations Department of Public Information Non-Governmental Organizations presented a discussion with the United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The theme focused on “Advancing Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity” in observance of the International Day of Families. The discussion was held on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at Conference Room 1, North Lawn Building, United Nations Headquarters, New York.
The International Day of Families (May 15) was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 by resolution A/RES/47/237. This year’s observance focused on what could be done to encourage the development of both social integration and intergenerational solidarity. These themes will eventually be highlighted during the 20th anniversary celebrations of the International Year of the Family in 2014.
The discussion commenced with the moderator, DPI/NGO Information Officer Gail Bindley-Taylor, explaining the importance of the day and that the NGO commission has a critical role in advancing social integration and intergenerational solidarity. Next, a screening of a short documentary film by Generation United titled, “How we live our lives?” was held. It demonstrated successful applications on how to create “intergenerational/multi-general communities” in modern societies.
This film can be found at: http://www2.gu.org/OURWORK/SharedSpaces.aspx - Source: NGO Relations/Department of Public Information of the United Nations
After the screening, the first panelist, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations H.E. Carlos Enrique García González, began his speech stating that “it is time to get united again; otherwise, we are going in a direction that will leave us on a planet where only some selective group of people, either by their age, color, or social condition live.” He continued on showing a list of the progress in the UN regarding social integration and intergenerational solidarity. According to this list, the first World Assembly on Aging was in 1982, and the second World Assembly on Aging was held and agreed on the International Action Plan of Madrid in 2002.
In 2010, a working group of the General Assembly on Aging was established to identify gaps in the human rights framework and to suggest possible solutions. June 15th was proclaimed as the day of Awareness of Elder Abuse in 2011. And in 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a study on gaps and challenges in the rights of the elderly.
H.E. García mentioned that El Salvador is working on the idea of having an Inter-American Convention on the rights of the elderly. It is not only important for the Americas but is also very important for the other countries. In that regard El Salvador started to participate in the UN Working Group on Aging in New York. The principles of the Salvadoran’s Proposal revolve around first, recognizing the specific need of the elderly. Second, it is fundamental to acknowledge “feminization of old age” because 54% of El Salvador’s total population is women. In order to maintain the spirit of democracy, it is crucial to empower women. The third article of the proposal is the need to provide policies on human rights. Fourth, the welfare model must be overcome leading towards a paradigm of empowerment and participation. In the proposal, creating a critical mass of support is suggested. And the last one is to work on complementarities with the Madrid Action Plan.
H.E. García also stated: “We are in the post agenda of 2015. A very small list of countries has worked on and achieved progress on development goals. The obstacle to achieving those action plans and goals is always lack of money. But money can be found for different reasons, for example, we can find a lot of money to buy weapons all over the world.”
Moreover, he stated that there is a general understanding of practices between “developed” and “underdeveloped” countries as if “developed” countries don’t have any problems similar to the “underdeveloped” and “developing countries.” He reiterated that this is not the case by expressing that not only do “developing” and “least developed” countries face such problems but also “developed” ones.
Thus, cooperation and partnerships are necessary among developed and developing countries to tackle the persistent and growing problems. Ambassador Garcia emphasized that development and partnership is a fundamental for all countries. It is important to create a critical mass to do the change. Furthermore, he emphasized “human rights” doesn’t mean anything by itself without “development.” Hence, needs for “human rights and development” is crucial and global.
“Investment to young people is a key; we cannot have integration without young people”
Next, Ms. Elizabeth Niland, Associate Social Affairs Officer for the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN, explained that the Division for Social Policy and Development seeks to strengthen international cooperation for social development, particularly in the areas of poverty eradication, productive employment, and the social inclusion of the elderly, youth, disabled, indigenous people, persons in conflict zones, and any other groups or persons marginalized from society and development.
Ms. Niland’s discussion centered on the theme: “What is social integration?” Social integration is to create a society for all. She mentioned three main issues about the youth. First of all, she said that youth unemployment is an increasing issue and other factors including the educational system. Young people often cannot find a job when they graduate from school, so some are forced to go back to live with their families. This leads them to delay their future plans. The second important issue is youth migration. When young people face financial struggles, they sometimes chose to migrate to find a job in order to accommodate themselves. Another problem is that women are not able to work outside of the home for various reasons. One of these is that traditionally, females are care givers to children or elderly parents in the family, so this cultural custom forces women to stay at home. Ms. Niland stressed the importance of young people and investment to young people as a key. She said, “We cannot have integration without young people.”
“Intergenerational programs encourage intergenerational solidarity in families”
Ms. Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United, started her speech explaining what Generations United does. The mission of Generations United is to improve the lives of youth and older people through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs for the enduring benefit of all. Intergenerational programs actually encourage intergenerational solidarity in families. Intergenerational programs aim to develop strong relations between generations in the families. In Generations United, there are three programs: (i.) young serving old, (ii.) old serving young, (iii.) old and young serving together.
Ms. Butts spoke on Generation United’s role to create “intergenerational/multi-general communities.” She gave information about Generation United’s actions building intergenerational shared sites. The organization helps to create settings where youth and older adults participate in services and/or programs concurrently. She also stated that intergenerational collaboration unites and improves our communities. Grandparents and other adults who step forward to raise children are keeping families together and providing an economic service to our country.
“Aging and intergenerational issues are often inseparable”
Ms. Theresa Knox, Program Director, Intergenerational Work Study Program for the NYC Department for the Aging, began her speech explaining the Intergenerational Work Study Program (IWSP). IWSP is a collaborative initiative of the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) and the NYC Department of Education. The mission of the Department for the Aging (DFTA) is "to work for the empowerment, independence, dignity and quality of life of New York City's diverse older adults and for the support of their families through advocacy, education, and the coordination and delivery of services." The program aims to increase intergenerational understanding and interaction, enriching the lives of participants in both generations.
Ms. Knox stated that aging and intergenerational issues are often inseparable; the department utilizes its role as a New York agency to address and raise awareness of intergenerational intersections as being matters of not just older generations but all generations.
Afterwards, the moderator Ms. Bindley-Taylor, thanked panelists and the audience and then opened the floor for comments and questions.
The first questions were about developing countries’ retirement plans, vacation policies, and youth unemployment.
A question for H.E Garcia was: “What recommendation would you give to the international community’s to help empowerment of women?”
After the Q & A, the panel concluded.
AFTERWARDS: COMMENT AND QUESTION
Proofread by Alana BACHE - E-published on June 18, 2013. Updated on June 23, 2013.