STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR J.ENKHSAIKHAN
IN THE PLENARY ON AGENDA ITEM (106),
International Year of the Older Persons-1999,
New York, 4 October, 1999 (UNGA 54)
My delegation believes that celebration of the International Year of the Older Persons (IYOP) under the theme: “Towards a Society for All Ages” on the eve of the next millennium, is an event of special significance. The United Nations and its relevant organizations, Member States, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, in short the entire international community is actively celebrating this year by taking concrete measures to make a difference for the elderly today and in the years to come. And there are well-founded reason for that. Thus according to the United Nations, there were 350 million people of 60 years of age or over in 1975. This number will have increased to 590 million by year 2000, and by year 2025, when the global population would have reached 8.2 billion, the elderly would reach 1.1 billion, constituting thus a considerable portion of the world’s population. This phenomena should be welcomed as a sign that over-all life expectancy and standard of living are increasing, though not evenly throughout the world.
The impact of this phenomena on the socio-economic conditions of societies is already presenting challenges to governments. It is in response to this phenomena and challenge that the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe the International Year of Older Persons, the primary objective of which is to raise awareness of the fast-changing demographic global picture with its challenges and to develop and pursue appropriate strategies and policies at the national, sub-regional, regional and international levels.
My delegation takes this opportunity to commend the Secretariat for the work done to meaningfully celebrate the Year. We note with appreciation the Secretary-General’s comprehensive report contained in document A/54/268, which provides us with a clear overview of the progress achieved in the field of addressing the questions connected with ageing and the challenges that lay ahead. The report highlights the activities undertaken at all levels. The highlights of the expert consultation on developing a policy framework for a society for all ages, annexed to the report, tries to present a possible new “architecture of ageing”, combining strategic thinking with pragmatic measures. Thus it points out four fundamental elements of the framework, which includes efforts of the older persons themselves, capabilities, or “capital”, accumulated over the lifecourse, mutually enriching multigenerational relationships in families and communities, and adjustment of national infrastructures in line with demographic and other changes. We believe that governments and appropriate organizations would find this document not only interesting and thought-provoking but also useful.
Since time immemorial, mongolians have revered elders, which has found reflection in the well-known proverb “teachings of elders are priceless”. That is why the Constitution of Mongolia makes special reference to elders. It states that every citizen of Mongolia has the right to receive financial and material assistance in old age. This provision of the Constitution provides a legal basis for the care of older people.
Mongolia’s population is relatively young. The elderly constitute about 8 per cent of the population. Nevertheless, they still need our special attention and care, especially today. The reason is that like many other countries undergoing fundamental changes, Mongolia is grappling with the challenges of the transition period.
In Mongolia market reforms have been boldly accelerated by liberalization of trade and prices, by large scale privatization and other economic measures. However the reform process has not been without difficulties. And these difficulties are directly affecting the lives of our people, especially those of the elderly and other vulnerable sections of the society. The income, i.e. the pensions of the elderly, due to inflation and price rises, have shrunk enormously. They are equal to or even lower than the minimum subsistence level and thus are not sufficient to meet the basic needs of normal life. Though pensions have been raised in the past, however they were soon overtaken by inflation and price hikes. The present Government is contemplating to further raise pensions.
Bearing in mind the difficult situation of the older people, the State and Government are taking some legal and administrative measures to alleviate their burdens. Thus the Government bears the expenses for health insurance of the older people as well as their travel expenses in connection with medical treatment. Also, the older people are entitled to obtain loans for the improvement of the conditions of their housing. Those living in the capital city are exempted from city bus fares. As a result of privatization, many rural elders have benefited from the privatization of the livestock. Special care and protection are provided to lonely people and to those that are incapable of leading an independent life. They are lodged in special care centers and are provided with free meals and clothing. However, these measures are not sufficient to alleviate the burdens of the older people. Still much needs to be done.
In celebrating the International Year of Older Persons (IYOP), the Government of Mongolia has declared 1999 as the Year of the Older Persons and is taking specific measures to address the problems that they face in Mongolia. Thus a national committee on IYOP has been established which adopted a comprehensive national and local plan that is being implemented. The IYOP and relevant activities are also being widely promoted through the mass media.
The Government of Mongolia launched the year 1999-2004 National Program on Health and Social Welfare of Older Persons. One of the ways of increasing the living standards of older persons is to provide a realistic opportunity for post-retirement employment and thus enable the elder people to earn additional income. The recent amendments to key social oriented legislative acts ( the Labor law, Social Welfare law, Older Persons’ Benefit and Service law, etc. ) create a more favorable legal and administrative environment and conditions for promoting social welfare and increasing the sources of income for elders. Also in support of them, the Government is providing some financial assistance from the budget to those that are actively engaged in small and medium scale businesses and cooperatives.
Despite all the support given by the Government and some NGOs to the older people poverty is still hitting hard. It would take some time and considerable economic progress to really alleviate the hardships of the older people. However, the celebration of the International Year of Older Persons is in some respects helping to ‘lighten’ the hardships and to raise the awareness of the problems involved and the challenges that lie ahead.
My delegation fully shares the assessment made by the Secretary-General in his message on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons that “…the older people of today are, in many ways, pioneers. True to this spirit, they have been innovators, catalysts and leaders of many initiatives taken during the year. In doing so, they have helped pave the way to a safer, healthier and richer life for many generations of older people who will come after them…”.
Respecting the elders is one of the notable traits of our traditional society and culture. We always respect and value the constructive roles of older people play in society, including their role within the family, organizations, politics and welfare. As mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, Mongolia is taking measures to make appropriate use of the skills and wisdom of retirees, as well as encouraging older persons to share their life and work experience with the younger generation.
Finally, Mr. President, as a co-sponsor of the draft
resolution on this item, my delegation expresses the hope that it
would be adopted without a vote, just like in previous years.