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Global Action on Aging Statement submitted

to the MDG Global Watch Side Event at the

 Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Fourth Session, 2005

Susanne Paul, President of Global Action on Aging


Mr. Chair,

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 persons. 

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 globalaging@globalaging.org Thanks to international interns, GAA has the capacity to publish in the major UN languages.  We are in the same struggle.

Thank you.

Susanne Paul, President of Global Action on Aging

PO Box 20022
New York
, NY 10025 USA
212 557-3163  phone
212 557-3164  fax

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