Speech of Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam at the Forum "The Journey to Age Equality" on the International Day of Older Persons

30 September 2019

Your Excellency Mr. Dam Huu Dac, Vice President of the Viet Nam Association of the Elderly;
Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lan, Deputy General of GOPFP;
Representatives of line ministries, government organizations, youth representatives, civil society organizations, HelpAge, the media and my fellow UN colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to participate in today’s Forum entitled “The Journey to Age Equality” to mark the International Day of Older Persons, which is celebrated across the world on 1 October.

Let me at the outset thank the Viet Nam Association of the Elderly, the General Office for Population and Family Planning, and HelpAge for co-hosting today’s Forum, which is to raise awareness of how vital older people are as a part of the community and to promote their equality and inclusiveness in society.  And today we mark this day with the theme of "The Journey to Age Equality".

Distinguished guests,

We are all getting older. This is a fact of life.

Getting older is awesome - because we get more experience and wisdom.

Population ageing is one of the most significant trends and features of the 21st century particularly in Viet Nam and in the Asia and the Pacific region. Globally, one in nine persons is aged 60 or older, and this is projected to increase to one in five by 2050. Between 2015 and 2030, it is estimated that the number of older persons worldwide is set to increase by 56 per cent—from 901 million to more than 1.4 billion.  By 2030, the number of people aged 60 and above will exceed those aged 15 and 24. In Viet Nam, the proportion of older persons in the total population has increased to 11.9 per cent in 2017, and will be doubled to 20 per cent by 2038.  

And therefore, population ageing is not the subject to be ignored in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Population ageing happens not because of mortality decline, or because people live longer, but because fertility declines. All countries in the world including Viet Nam must be prepared for aging when couples start to have a smaller family. Viet Nam must envision a new paradigm that aligns demographic ageing with economic and social growth and ensure social inclusion of the elderly.  

Ageing is a triumph of development. We must now turn our focus from merely helping people reach old age to helping them reach a productive old age continuing to contribute to the development of the society and the country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our today's event aims to raise awareness about ageing population and to facilitate inter-generational discussions on experiences, lessons learned and progress on the journey to ending older age inequality and changing negative narratives and stereotypes involving “older age”.

Distinguished guests,

The year 2019 is indeed a special year, as we mark the 25 year anniversary of the adoption of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. As such, today we open the photo voice exhibition called “Humans of ICPD: Across the life cycle: Right and Choice for All People”. It showcases two sets of photos: one set with 15 photos of 15 ICPD Principles that represent the interrelationships between population and sustainable development. And another set of photos with 15 inspiring stories of older persons in different parts of the country. Through the voices of older persons, a message must be spread, and movement needs to be created, to say that older persons are an active participant in the society, not a burden to the society. In that sense, it is extremely important that Viet Nam should facilitate employment opportunities, flexible and equal retirement age between men and women, and skills development for older persons as a means to ensure income and benefits for old age.

As we step towards the better future we all want, ‘leaving no one behind,’ let us promote equality and ensure the full participation of older persons to build a better society for all ages.

Thank you, and wishing you all health, happiness and success on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons.