THE BLOG

Post-2015: Don't Miss This Opportunity, Mr Cameron

31/01/2013 16:26 GMT | Updated 02/04/2013 10:12 BST

The process of drawing up a post-2015 development framework will be a missed opportunity if it fails to correct the flaws of the Millennium Development Goals.

There is a risk that the discussions around the new framework led by the UN High Level Panel chaired by the British prime minister, David Cameron, Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyno of Indonesia will play it safe and adopt the same narrow and targeted approach that was taken by MDGs - that is focusing on the limited categories of children and women of reproductive age.

In a world where the population over 60 soon will be larger than the population under 10, a global development framework needs to address the growing number of older people and help them to stay productive and active in society and, when they are no longer able to work, to properly support them with adequate healthcare and pensions.

The countries of tomorrow will be the ones who understand and adapt to population ageing. The countries who fail will be those who do not adapt to the social and economic challenges posed by a growing number of poor and unsupported older people over the coming years.

As this week's meeting of the UN High Level Panel is about to start in Monrovia, my message to Mr Cameron and his co-chairs on the panel would simply be this: let us set up a framework of solutions now - in the form of social protection for all including pensions and universal healthcare as well as lifelong employment, education and training opportunities - so that our ageing population can deliver a boon and not a burden to the developing nations of the world. Let us make sure that a new development framework will be based on human rights for all so that, once and for all, we can eradicate all types of discrimination and abuse against older people.

One of the big oversights of the Millennium Development Goals was that it did not create an expectation that monitoring and data should cover all ages, with the result that statistics for issues such as HIV or violence stop at age 49 and we know practically nothing about older people living with the infection. If we are to provide adequate support and help, we need to know things such as the infection rate for the over 50s, whether the number is rising or falling and to what extent they face discrimination or economic difficulties because of the infection. Without these figures, we are guessing and stumbling in the half light. If tangible change is to be experienced by the world's older people, then we have to have accessible data about their lives and experiences that can form the basis of effective new policies and services. Without adequate data there is no protection of citizens' human rights.

Cameron and his colleagues need to be ambitious in their thinking if they want to fix what was wrong with the MDGs - at the moment we are looking to develop programmes without the solid data to give a full picture in terms of human experiences according to gender, ageing and disability. If we don't know the details, how can governments, private sector and civil society address them properly?

Please, don't miss the opportunity to make the world a better place for all generations - including the world's growing population of older people.