Macau, 16-19 June 1997
I. ORGANIZATION OF THE SEMINAR
1. The Regional Seminar on Government-NGO Cooperation for Older Persons was convened by ESCAP in Macau from 16 to 19 June 1997. The Seminar was financially supported by the Government of the Netherlands and hosted by the Government of Macau.
2. The main purposes of the Seminar were: (a) to review cooperation between governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for older persons; and (b) to identify measures for enhancing government-NGO cooperation for older persons and to adopt action-oriented recommendations for improved cooperation.
3. The Seminar was attended by government officials from the following countries and territories: China, India, Indonesia, Kazakstan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.
4. The following intergovernmental organizations and NGOs participated in the Seminar: the Colombo Plan, the Australian Coalition '99, the Council on the Ageing (Australia), the Cambodian Association for the Elderly, the Foundation for the Elderly (Philippines), HelpAge International, HelpAge Sri Lanka, the Indonesian Society of Gerontology, the Macau General Workers' Association, the Macau Neighbours' Association, the National Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of Malaysia, the Singapore Action Group of Elders, the Senior Citizens' Council of Thailand and the Centre for the Welfare of the Aged (India).
5. The Government of Portugal was represented as an observer. Representatives of the following NGOs in Macau also attended the Seminar as observers: Obra das Maes, Caritas de Macau, Santa Casa de Misericordia (Holy House of Mercy), Lar de Idosos Ahou Kong Yuet Lai, Lar de Idosos (Fok Hoi), and Associacao das Senhoras Democraticas de Macau (Macau Democratic Women's Association).
II. OPENING OF THE SEMINAR
6. The Seminar was opened by the Chief of the Social Development Division of ESCAP. In welcoming the participants, he expressed his pleasure at the attendance at the Seminar of representatives from 14 governments and 15 NGOs from countries and territories of the region as well as the presence of over 60 observers from the Government of Macau and from NGOs based in Macau. He emphasized that the Seminar would serve as an important step for both governments and NGOs to work out measures for the cause of older persons and to make joint efforts towards the achievement of the goals of the International Year of Older Persons (1999).
7. He observed that social development was often seen as the progress of specific vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of the population. Each group was unique in its problems and character. However, that "micro" view needed to be complemented by a "macro" perspective. All of the elements involving social development, such as the relationships between the family and the community, between social and economic factors, and between governments and NGOs should be taken into account.
8. He reminded the Seminar that its main objective was to identify measures for enhancing government-NGO cooperation for older persons. He emphasized that such cooperation should be achieved in each country without compromising the sovereign rights of governments as the representatives of all the people or the independence of NGOs as representatives of specific groups. He stressed that the Seminar should culminate in practical, attainable, and implementable recommendations for action by both governments and NGOs.
9. In concluding his statement, he expressed appreciation to the Government of the Netherlands for contributing funds for the Seminar. He also expressed gratitude to the Government and the people of Macau, especially the host agency, the Institute of Social Affairs of Macau, for graciously hosting the Seminar.
10. In his inaugural statement, Mr Alarcao Troni, Secretary for Social Affairs and Budgeting of the Government of Macau, warmly welcomed the Seminar participants. He highlighted the social challenges faced by Macau as it approached the turn of the century. While noting that older persons in Macau accounted for 6.9 per cent of its population, he indicated that 20 per cent of the population was in attendance at educational institutions. He emphasized that from a long-term perspective, education and training played an important role in generating public awareness of those social challenges and in providing the necessary skills for the current and coming generations.
11. The Secretary informed the Seminar that the four major objectives of the Government of Macau regarding older persons were: (a) to ensure a quality national health system; (b) to provide social welfare and pensions while ensuring a minimum income for all; (c) to strengthen the network of homes for older persons managed by the Government with the assistance of NGOs; and (d) to put into operation an old-age card system, which was a joint effort between the Government of Macau and NGOs in caring for older persons in their daily life.
III. AGENDA OF THE SEMINAR
12. The Seminar adopted the following agenda:
13. The Seminar noted that among the social development issues facing the ESCAP region, ageing was still relatively marginalized. Less attention was paid to developing policies and implementing programmes to improve the lives of older people in the ESCAP region than was paid to the needs of most other disadvantaged groups. In view of the vital role of NGOs in addressing the emerging issues related to ageing and older persons in the region, it was agreed that NGOs, governments and other entities would need to cooperate and collaborate and find mechanisms to facilitate and ensure the effectiveness of such collaboration.
14. The Seminar noted that there was a need for governments, international donor agencies and NGOs to give priority to ageing and related issues on the national agenda; and to allocate funds for policy development, programme implementation and the introduction of comprehensive social welfare programmes which benefited older people and their families. It was recognized that NGOs had a role in identifying needs, designing programmes and advising governments of the changing needs of older people.
15. The Seminar emphasized the need for NGOs to be represented in national committees or other bodies dealing with ageing. In cases where there was a large number of NGOs, it was felt that it was incumbent upon the NGO community concerned with ageing to form an appropriate umbrella group or coalition to represent their views collectively to the relevant government agencies.
16. The Seminar emphasized the need for governments to provide the necessary framework which would enable NGOs and other civic groups to flourish. In that regard, it was felt that appropriate registration and fiscal incentives would create an enabling environment for the efforts of NGOs, such as fund-raising.
17. In reviewing the legal and regulatory arrangements prevailing in countries and territories in the region, the Seminar noted the widespread lack of policies and legislation to ensure financial security in old age. The question arose whether it was the responsibility of the individual to save for his or her old age, or the shared responsibility of the State, the family and the individual to ensure care and protection of older persons. In that context, the Seminar recognized the need to promote further NGO functions as service providers and advocates for the well-being of older persons.
18. The Seminar recognized the necessity to expand the network of NGOs to the local and community levels as well as to the regional and interregional levels. The view was expressed that governments could use such networks as a vehicle to transmit information and delivering services to the people, including older persons.
19. It was emphasized that, in order to ensure effective government-NGO cooperation, it was essential that policy, administrative, legal and institutional frameworks for cooperation should be worked out in each country and territory on the basis of mutual trust and respect. The Seminar agreed that effective policies and legislation were needed to protect, promote and regulate the provision of services and assistance to older persons and programmes for them.
20. The participants held the view that policy development was the basis of any effort that governments and NGOs could undertake together. Policies must be developed with inputs and contributions from both sectors. For the government, there was a need for inter-sectoral, inter-sectional and inter-agency collaboration. On the other hand, NGOs, with particular knowledge and access to grass-roots communities, could help governments to formulate effective programmes in both urban and rural areas.
21. The participants also discussed the following issues: (a) the introduction of legislative and regulatory frameworks to guide NGOs in their operation and the involvement of NGOs in the decision-making process to ensure support for its implementation; (b) the introduction of regulations concerning the administrative costs of NGOs; and (c) the development of guidelines to enhance standards of care and other community-based services for older persons. The Seminar agreed that governments and NGOs could collaborate on the determination of acceptable norms and that NGOs should regulate themselves to maintain a high level of transparency and accountability.
22. Regarding resource mobilization, the Seminar focused on three areas for enhanced government-NGO cooperation, namely: (a) financial resource mobilization; (b) service resource mobilization; and (c) mobilization of resources for human resource development. Among the various measures discussed were tax incentives to donors, extension of income tax margins in respect of older persons, subsidies and matching of grants to NGOs, and rent-free premises for NGO operations. The Seminar also deliberated on the provision of social services and underlined that it was in this area that the advantages of NGOs could be promoted and enhanced. The Seminar noted the need to extend the specialized services provided by NGOs, such as health and medical services, and pension, legal and consultation services, through the available government machinery and networks.
23. It was observed that one of the most effective and tangible aspects of government-NGO cooperation lay in the field of human resource development and training. The Seminar stressed that there was a need for practical training of people working with older persons. Such training could rapidly increase the skills base of those whose knowledge had a real impact on improving the lives of older people, such as nurses, social workers and NGO and government workers alike.
24. Networking was emphasized by the Seminar as an important area for cooperation between governments and NGOs. It was felt that networking of government agencies and NGOs delivering similar services to older persons would help promote coordination and reduce the duplication of services and waste of resources. Such networking could improve coordination by involving the national body on ageing and the NGO umbrella organization. The Seminar noted the need to promote an open system of communication, including the exchange of research and information, through the efforts of both governments and NGOs. It was pointed out that networking of governments and NGOs was of particular relevance for the observance of the International Year of Older Persons (1999).
25. It was agreed that governments and NGOs needed to work together to develop frameworks to safeguard financial benefits and to meet the special needs of older women who were homemakers or who had no kin. This was felt to be especially important in the region because the number of older persons was increasing rapidly, the majority being women.
26. The Seminar concluded that government-NGO cooperation for the observance of the International Year of Older Persons (1999) needed to be given high priority by all concerned. It agreed that the International Year provided an opportunity to create and strengthen the partnership between governments and NGOs in furthering the understanding of issues imposed by the rapid ageing of societies and in enhancing their capacity to deal with those issues. The Seminar underlined the need for governments, NGOs and international and regional bodies to collaborate in promoting the objectives of the International Year, including, but not limited to, assisting governments in the formulation of national plans of action and national targets on ageing.
VI. ADOPTION OF RECOMMENDATIONS
27. The Seminar adopted a set of recommendations on government-NGO cooperation for older persons on 19 June 1997. The recommendations are presented in Part One of the present publication.
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