Bangkok, 20-23 January 1997
I. ORGANIZATION OF THE MEETING
1. The NGO Workshop on Government-NGO Cooperation for Older Persons was convened by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) at Bangkok from 20 to 23 January 1997.
2. The main purposes of the Workshop were to: (a) review the role of NGOs in developing and implementing policies and programmes on behalf of older persons; and (b) discuss ways and means of enhancing government-NGO cooperation for older persons.
3. The Meeting was attended by representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: Bangladesh Association for the Aged and Institute of Geriatric Medicine, Cambodian Association for the Elderly, China National Committee on Ageing, Fiji Council of Social Services, HelpAge India, Centre for the Welfare of the Aged, Indonesian Society of Gerontology, HelpAge Indonesia/Yayasan Emong Lansia, Lao Women's Union, Santa Casa de Mesericordia, Caritas, USIAMAS (GoldenAge) Foundation, National Council of Senior Citizens Organizations Malaysia, Mongolian Association of Elderly Persons, Society for the Welfare of the Elderly People, Pakistan Senior Citizens Association, Foundation for the Elderly, Inc., Coalition of Services for the Elderly, HelpAge Korea, Tsao Foundation Ltd., HelpAge Sri Lanka, Senior Citizens Council of Thailand, Foundation for Thailand Rural Reconstruction Movement, Social Action Centre of the Archdiocese of Bangkok, Association Nationale des Personnes Agees du Viet Nam, International Association of Gerontology, and HelpAge International.
4. Representatives of the following United Nations bodies and specialized agencies were also in attendance: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
5. The list of participants in the Workshop is annexed to this Report.
C. Opening of the Workshop
6. The Workshop was opened by the Director of the Social Development Division of ESCAP. In welcoming the participants, he drew their attention to the rapid ageing of the populations in Asia and the Pacific with the increasing absolute number and proportion of people aged 60 years and over. The Director emphasized the need for appropriate action, at the national, community and individual levels, to be taken for the development and well-being of older persons, particularly in view of the observance of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999 as declared by the United Nations.
7. The Director expressed appreciation of efforts made by many NGOs in trying to empower themselves through the development and implementation of programmes on behalf of older persons. He emphasized the important role of NGOs who are advocates for older persons in tackling the many cross-sectoral issues relating to ageing and older persons. He was pleased to note that as elected representatives, governments were becoming more accountable, that efforts had been made by governments to accommodate demands of NGOs in the implementation of policies and programmes for social development, in line with changes in the world, and that NGOs had become valuable assets in the course of national development.
8. The Director drew the attention of the participants to the need to further enhance the cooperation between governments and NGOs for older persons and to the need for NGOs to find means to mobilize government support, especially at this time when attitudes towards a partnership between governments and NGOs were becoming more favourable and that NGOs were becoming increasingly important providers of support and services, particularly at the community level, in the implementation of government policies and programmes for older persons.
9. The Director noted the presence of senior representatives of NGOs from 18 countries and territories in the Asian and Pacific region, which testified to the importance that NGOs attached to their cooperation with governments on issues relating to older persons.
10. In concluding his statement, the Director thanked the Government of the Netherlands for providing generous funding support for the organization of the Workshop. He also thanked the representatives of the United Nations bodies and specialized agencies for their participation.
11. The Chief of the Disadvantaged Groups Section, Social Development Division of ESCAP, in explaining the background of and formalities for the conduct of the Workshops, noted that the Workshop was the first of its kind at the regional level. He underlined the importance for the Workshop to agree on a set of recommendations on government-NGO cooperation, which will be submitted for the consideration of a regional forum of government and NGO representatives to be held later in the year.
12. The Workshop had the following agenda:
II. HIGHLIGHTS OF DELIBERATIONS
13. The following were highlights of the Workshop deliberations on the issues relating to the agenda items.
14. While noting the rapid ageing of populations in Asia and the Pacific and its impact on the social and economic development of the region, the Workshop recognized the important and complementary role of NGOs in the field of ageing as well as their significant contributions to the promotion and improvement of the well-being of older persons, including that of women and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of the population.
15. The Workshop underlined that ageing and related issues should be viewed not merely as social problems but as a complex set of socio-economic problems. It was essential that the public be educated and motivated to be aware of issues relating to ageing and of the concerns of older people. Recognizing that no single entity or institution could tackle these issues by itself, the Workshop felt that coordinated effort was needed from governments, NGOs, the private sector and the public.
16. The Workshop observed that many programmes on behalf of older persons had been developed and implemented by NGOs in different countries and territories in the region. It noted that though varying in the levels of support, coverage and success, it noted that these programmes addressed issues and problems of concern to older persons through the provision of community-based services and support, the generation of social and public awareness, the development of a national network of local organizations, the enhanced collaboration among NGOs, the continuing consultation with older persons as well as the training of personnel working for older persons. It was recognized that NGOs for older persons had pioneered home care services and raised the standard of care in residential and other facilities.
17. The Workshop exchanged views and information on different measures which could be undertaken by NGOs in enhancing the role of older persons in furthering the goals of social development. These included the implementation of self-help initiatives, the provision of basic services, the provision of funding and technical and other support services (research, training, communications and raising awareness).
18. The Workshop noted that many countries in the region directed most of their available resources towards the younger population. It underlined the need for the family and the community to be strengthened to care for its older members. Emphasis was placed on the need to establish appropriate social security policy, including income security, which stressed the individuals' responsibility for lifelong preparation for old age.
19. It was observed that older persons were often seen as care recipients. As they were able to continue to make valuable contributions to society beyond retirement age, the Workshop felt that they should be viewed as a resource. The Workshop recognized the benefits to society if Governments and NGOs for older persons were to draw upon the expertise of this population group. They could jointly help create a data base of older persons to be utilised in the pursuit of national development, and at the same time, continue to support the development of their expertise.
20. The Workshop underscored the need for: (a) the creation of a facilitating legal, financial and political environment in which NGOs for older persons can pursue their mission and render effective service; and (b) the establishment of an effective partnership between governments and NGOs for older persons, and of an open system of communication, including the exchange of research and information. It was agreed that this need would require that both governments and NGOs for older persons should maintain transparency and a consultative approach in their respective decision-making processes.
21. The Workshop concluded that the observance of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999 should be used as an opportunity to create and strengthen the partnerships and coordinating mechanisms between governments and NGOs for older persons, between scientists, educators, practitioners, the private sector and governments in furthering understanding of and dealing with ageing and related issues as well as in enhancing national and regional capabilities of addressing effectively the challenges posed by these issues.
22. Finally, the Workshop expressed concern at the lack of financial and technical support given to ageing and related issues by international organizations.
The Workshop unanimously adopted the following recommendations:
A. Governments should:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE the importance of population ageing as a national issue which calls for the formulation of comprehensive national policies on ageing, recognizing the significance and contributions of older persons, protective of their rights, and promoting their well-being;
2. RECOGNIZE the vital and significant contributions of NGOs for older persons in promoting these rights and bringing about improvement in the lives of older people, including women and those rendered vulnerable by poverty, sickness, disability, homelessness, loneliness and advanced old age;
3. (a) TAKE immediate steps to re-examine, simplify and standardize the administrative and legal framework concerning incorporation, registration and licensing of NGOs for older persons so as to enable them to exist as legal entities with all the corresponding rights, privileges and immunities that such entities should enjoy in the conduct of their affairs and the discharge of their duties;
(b) DEVELOP in collaboration with ESCAP and other concerned United Nations bodies and agencies guidelines for the incorporation of NGOs for older persons. Such guidelines should include: a sample constitution; an organisational structure together with functional descriptions for all positions; and financial, legal and operational procedures;
4. (a) WORK towards tax relief for NGOs in the field of ageing for all donations, profits, rents, interest as well as relief for movable and immovable property held or enjoyed by them as long as the funds of such NGOs are used in the service of their beneficiaries as declared in their constitution, mission statement or statement of objectives;
(b) PROVIDE tax exemption to donors for all contributions, donations, bequests, and endowments enjoyed by NGOs for older persons;
(c) GRANT tax relief and other incentives to family members providing shelter, assistance and care to older persons;
5. FACILITATE regular communication between governments and NGOs by establishing definite channels of contact within ministries;
6. FURTHER DEVELOP, as a priority and in consultation with NGOs for older persons and others, appropriate standards for the provision of services for older persons and efficient strategies to monitor these programmes and services;
7. ACTIVELY SUPPORT and provide funding for the development of innovative service models and pilot projects and assist in the duplication of successful examples of these models elsewhere in the country. These programmes should represent standards of best practice currently available in the field of ageing and should, however, take into account the widest range of service needs of older persons and their families, including the gender issues involved, with particular emphasis on the needs of older women, those in very advanced old age, the sick and disabled, and others living alone or in poverty;
8. SEEK ways through effective public education and the use of appropriate media, to promote the developmental approach to ageing and related issues, and not to view them as welfare or as remedial services, but as dynamic concerns affecting young and old alike whether they are individuals, family or community groups;
9. PROMOTE by all available means and in a sustained manner, together with appropriate policy, the need for all adults to make active lifelong preparation for old age;
10. RAISE issues associated with ageing and older persons on the national agenda and allocate sufficient funds to pursue clearly enunciated targets derived from adequate consultation with NGOs for older persons;
11. WORK with NGOs and other intergovernmental bodies and agencies to ensure that ageing and issues of concern to older persons are included as a programme priority for financial and technical assistance by all such entities, including UNDP, WHO, ILO and UNFPA, to ensure that in their subsequent programme cycles, at the earliest opportunity, sufficient assistance is available to NGOs for older persons;
12. PROVIDE financial and material support to NGOs for older persons, such as grants in aid, service purchase, cost subsidy, allotment of training grants, secondment of personnel or payment of the salary of such personnel;
13. RENDER further support by contributing to the human resource development of NGOs for older persons. This could be done by provision of unpaid on-the-job teaching and supervision of staff; sponsoring of age-related training programmes; reservation of training places to training courses; and provision of scholarship or payment of trainer's fees;
14. PROVIDE information, including research information, policy guidelines and directives, action targets, service thrusts, mandates and all other such material deemed of interest and value to NGOs for older persons, provided that those NGOs reciprocate such exchanges to the best of their ability;
15. SUPPORT NGO-initiated research on ageing, age care, and related issues, including needs assessment and programme evaluation;
16. ESTABLISH/STRENGTHEN national coordinating mechanisms on ageing and related issues to ensure that NGOs for older persons are involved in the policy-making process and that views from the ground are clearly heard and acted upon;
17. ENSURE that, as appropriate, NGOs for older persons are represented among the fully accredited members of delegations to meetings and consultations organised by intergovernmental, regional and international organisations in the field of ageing and in related fields;
B. Non-governmental organizations for older persons should:
1. OPERATE within the existing legal framework and maintain full accountability to the public in its management and financial practice as well as service provision;
2. RECOGNIZE that women are the majority among older persons and that apart from a minority, older persons are able to lead meaningful, active and productive lives, contributing to the well-being of their families and communities;
3. DEVELOP programmes and deliver a range of quality support services, representing the best standards of practice currently available, for all categories of older persons. While ensuring the provision of appropriate community-based age care and participation of older people in community development, all activities must be conducted in ways that promote the dignity of and respect for older persons;
4. PROMOTE and provide research, training and other support services to enhance the capabilities of age-care concerned organizations and senior citizens' self-help organisations.
5. GENERATE technical and financial support for self-help initiatives and related institutions to provide assistance and opportunities to the poor and disadvantaged older persons in their endeavour for social, cultural and economic sustainability;
6. PAY ATTENTION to the organizational and human resource development needs of all employees, management and direct service volunteers, including older persons themselves, so as to generate a committed, happy, productive and professional working environment which promotes the dignity of older persons;
7. INVOLVE themselves in policy formulation through collaboration with the government to integrate ageing and related issues into national policy;
8. ENGAGE and promote research for project and programme development;
9. PROMOTE and strengthen the network of age-care organisations, including individual older persons as well as elders' associations, for socio-economic development;
10. WORK with governments to bring about changes in laws and regulations so as to provide older people with adequate access to facilities, services and resources;
11. ACTIVELY PROMOTE information exchange and dissemination of public education material through all channels, including the mass media where possible, to promote a positive attitude towards older persons and the ageing process and to project an image of older persons as productive people in their own right;
12. COLLABORATE with governments and international/regional organizations, including ESCAP, in developing programmes and projects to promote the objectives of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999 and follow-up activities, particularly at the local and community levels. Such cooperation should focus primarily on the formulation of a national plan of action and the setting of national targets on ageing and related issues.
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