on Aging Statement submitted
to the MDG
Global Watch Side Event at the
Forum on Indigenous Issues, Fourth Session, 2005
of Global Action on Aging
Global Action on Aging is pleased to speak to this Permanent Forum
audience about the Millennium Development Goals. I thank MDG Global Watch
for its efforts in organizing this important Side Event.
Our organization, Global Action on Aging, has always regretted
that the MDG's do not specifically include improving the
lives of older persons as a specific goal.
However, we know that achieving the MDG's will materially improve
the lives of older persons. But,
not necessarily all older persons! In
fact, armed conflicts and civil unrest will continue to take the lives of
older indigenous persons at a rapid rate.
In 2002, a Permanent Forum participant knocked on our office door located
across the street from the UN. We
greeted a man in mid-life who told us that he was a tribal leader in the
Niger River Delta area. I
assumed that he wanted to ask our directions to another office, not ours.
"But no," he said, he had come to see us at Global Action on
Aging. Sitting down to talk
with the staff, interns, and me, this tribal leader taught us an important
point that I'd like to share with you.
"I am here," he said, "to claim the right for indigenous persons to
live a long life. Your
organization must insist and struggle for indigenous and all people to
have the human right to a long life."
While neither our staff nor I had framed the issue in that way, he
made a great deal of sense. This
distinguished leader described how oil companies, particularly Chevron and
Shell, had fouled permanently the Niger River Delta, both the water and
the surrounding land. In their
greed to extract oil, the oil companies threw down huge pipelines above
the ground. Some leaked. Soon,
local people got sick, children and adults died, and little would grow on
the rich soil of the delta. Many
indigenous died early in their lives.
They never had the chance to get old.
Since 1945, the founders and current Member States of the United Nations
have claimed humanity's rights in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, in the International Covenant for Social and Economic Rights, and
in subsequent decisions, including the adoption of the Madrid Plan of
Action on Ageing in 2002. However,
all these documents speak to persons who have reached an old age.
The Permanent Forum participant who came to our office raised a
much larger issue-the right for humans to reach old age-necessitating
the economic and social conditions for peace that permit attaining such a
goal. Surely the MDG's
support that effort.
Most of Global Action on Aging's program work focuses on income support
and health access in old age as well as the broad area of elder rights.
Our organization, along with London-based Help Age International
has pressed the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to
come up with ways to protect older persons caught in armed conflict. We
think the international community should have a report on how this
civilian protection has been accomplished.
Of course, the UN Security Council has the real authority to
address peace and security issues. Our
organization wants to see older persons added to the governing documents
for humanitarian organizations to give "special protection."
However, the Council has not taken action so far to protect older
Where can be found some of the world's most blatant and invisible armed
conflicts that threaten local people? The silent wars and the
civil wars that usurp the lives, resources, and land of indigenous
persons throughout the world. Corporations'
greed for natural resources feed these silent wars, and set the stage for
government eradication of indigenous people.
I know that the women and men leaders who attend the PF on II join Global
Action on Aging in our efforts to demand protection in armed conflicts for
indigenous peoples of all ages. And
we see the potential of the MDG's to create the basis for a good old age
among indigenous persons.
Global Action on Aging has a very large website that records the many
struggles and victories of older persons in claiming our rights.
Will you please send us information about your struggles so that we
can post your information on the web?
Tell us the fate of your older persons.
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to international interns, GAA has the capacity to publish in the
major UN languages. We are in
the same struggle.
of Global Action on Aging
212 557-3163 phone
212 557-3164 fax