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23 October 2018 - Addressing Population Ageing in Asia-Pacific: The Role of Family, Community and the State

  • Published in Health

Chiang Mai, Thailand / Tehran, Iran, 23 October 2018 - With population ageing already a reality for many countries across Asia and the Pacific, and on the not too distant horizon for many others, Governments, United Nations partners and civil society stakeholders are meeting to discuss the issue from a variety of angles at the HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference 2018 from 23-25 October in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.

“This year, our biennial conference carries the theme ‘Family, Community and the State in an Ageing Society’,” said Eduardo Klien, Director of the HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Office based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “This recognises that addressing the complexities of population ageing requires a multi-dimensional approach, involving not only governments but all of society, if we are to successfully - and urgently - tackle the challenges and maximize the opportunities of these rapid demographic changes.”

Asia and the Pacific is currently home to over half the world’s people over 60 years of age. Globally, the number of older persons, rising at an unprecedented rate, is forecast to exceed 2 billion by 2050. By then, nearly two-thirds of the world’s older people – close to 1.3 billion – will be living in Asia-Pacific, and one in four people across the region is expected to be over 60. In North-east and East Asia, this proportion will be more than one in three people. Women currently constitute some 54% of the older demographic in Asia-Pacific, but represent an even greater majority, 61%, of the ‘oldest old’ population (80 years and older).

“Throughout history, responsibility for older persons has traditionally assumed to lie with the family, but as family structures change this assumption is changing as well,” explained Bjorn Andersson, Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Asia-Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, which is supporting the conference. “Many governments and societies have begun redefining what ageing truly means, exploring ways in which older people can better relate to their families, communities and the state via policies that seek to achieve an optimal socioeconomic equilibrium. This means enabling older persons to continue to contribute to society for as long as they are willing and able, along with providing necessary support systems and safety nets.” 

The HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference will flesh out its theme from three main perspectives, including income security in old age, long term care and social inclusion.   

“For Iran, as the host country, the conference and its theme are particularly timely,” said Dr Leila Joudane, UNFPA Representative in the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Although more than 80 percent of older Iranian people are still living with their family members, the number of older persons who are living without a spouse or any family member has increased during recent decades. According to the latest government data, nearly 50 percent of older women are living in households without a spouse, the majority of them heads of households and among the lowest income categories. The gender dimensions of ageing are significant, not only in Iran but across the Asia-Pacific region.”

The conference will bring together around 300 participants from more than 20 countries across Asia-Pacific and from Iran, including experts, representatives of civil society and international organisations, government officials and other representatives, policymakers, and, perhaps most importantly, older people themselves.

“At the core of the conference are older persons - whom we know in our own lives as our grandparents, parents and society elders,” concluded Eduardo Klien. 

“They need to be independent, active persons, not objects of decisions made by others, but active participants in any strategies, policies or solutions proposed that would impact their lives as well as those of future generations.”


16/10/2018 - Connect's interview with Leila Joudane, UNFPA Representative in I.R. Iran

Please tell us about the current situation of older people and population ageing in Iran. How have the demographic configuration and family dynamics changed over the past 10 years?

Iran is among the countries where fertility has declined sharply, in our case from about 7 children per woman in the 1980s to 2.01 in 2016. Given this fertility decline, and the large post-revolution baby-boom generation, and despite its current young-age structure, Iran will experience rapid population ageing in the next three decades.

It’s predicted that the number and proportion of older persons (60 years and over) will increase sharply from 7.4 million (9.3 per cent of the current total population) in 2016 to nearly 30 million in 2050, constituting one third of Iran’s population. Older women will outnumber older men significantly.

Although the majority of older Iranian people are living with their family members (81 per cent as per the 2011 census), the number of older persons who are living without a spouse or any family member has increased during recent decades. According to the latest report by the Statistical Center of Iran, nearly 50 per cent of older women are living in households without a spouse, and the majority of them are the heads of households and among the three lowest income deciles.

The average household size is also getting smaller in Iran (from 5.2 persons in 1990 to 3.3 in 2016). Nuclear families with fewer members are on the rise, and obviously there will be fewer family members to support older people in the future. This will be a major challenge, particularly in a country like Iran where families are still the main source of support for older persons.

There is a significant gender gap in the literacy rate among older people in Iran. Only 24 per cent of older women and 48 per cent of older men are literate. By contrast, the literacy rate of the current young and middle-aged population is very high; therefore in the future the elderly population of the country will be com-prised of people with a higher level of literacy and education, and with less of a gender gap. This would create opportuni-ties for older persons, particularly older women, to be more active in society, since higher education is closely related to higher income, lower social vulnerability and greater social engagement.

What challenges does the country face as the population is ageing – at the household level up to the national level?

Population ageing is a consequence of development, a mark of success. People now live longer and have the chance to contribute to their societies more than ever in history. This is an exciting situation with various opportunities, but we should not forget that serious challenges will appear if there is no adaptation to this population transition. This adapta-tion should take the form of reform in social policies, which cannot be achieved without accurate data and knowledge about the status of older persons and the implications of population ageing. The lack of laws and legislation to protect older persons is another challenge–not just in Iran but in the vast majority of countries that have begun to experience this demographic shift.
Among other challenges, income security, participation and social inclusion as well as the health and care of older persons, especially women, who are usually left behind, are issues that need immediate action.

How can stakeholders in Iran respond to the implications of ageing? What mechanisms could be used to protect older persons?

The government of Iran has taken positive steps so far to respond to population ageing. The National Council of Older People has been established, for example, which provides institutional infrastructure for coordination, advocacy and policy dialogue in this area.

However, to more effectively address the needs of older persons, especially older women, significant reform in socio-economic and health policies is required, placing an emphasis on this population group. Promoting effective inter-sectoral collaboration, proposing protective laws and legislation as well as advocating effectively for active and healthy ageing are all actions that would ensure that older persons, especially women, will be protected, and will not be left behind. Such laws and legislation should also protect older women against any type of harm and violence.
Pension funds and social security organisations should be ready to serve the growing number of older persons, and they need to provide adequate financial and human resources. In the absence of universal pension coverage for older persons in Iran, and low pension coverage in general (near 40 per cent based on unofficial sources), the poverty rate could increase, which would put older persons in a fragile situation.

Ultimately, a life-cycle approach and investment in the current youth and working-age population is absolutely necessary to ensure truly effective responses to the implications of population ageing. This will help both in the near future and the long-term in mitigating risks and responding to the needs of older persons.

UNFPA and the Government of Iran will co-host the upcoming HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference. How do you feel about it and what is your expectation for this conference?

This is the first international conference on the topic of population ageing in Iran, and I am confident that it will bring great exposure for the country and its proactive approach to population ageing issues. There will be plenty of opportunities for Iranian experts and policy-makers to share their knowledge and experiences, while benefiting from presentations by high-level, international academics and specialists.
The event has received considerable attention from various countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. We expect more than 120 international participants, including high-level officials, academics, experts, representatives of NGOs and the private sector. This shows the commitment of the international community to the issue of population ageing. More importantly, the conference can pave the way for UNFPA and the government to strengthen our existing partnership, and to mobilize resources to better respond to the implications of population ageing.
I am confident that the conference will provide a fertile ground for more comprehensive, national and multi-sectoral policies in which the comprehensive needs and rights of older persons are met, and also pave the way to introduce laws to protect older persons, especially older women, against any type of violence or other harms.


10 October 2018 - One-day training on “Age-Friendly City, Participation and Social Protection” by UNFPA

  • Published in Other

Today, one-day training on “Age-Friendly City, Participation and Social Protection” is conducting by the Elderly Council of the Province of Isfahan affiliated to the State Welfare Organization.

Dr. Leila Joudane, UNFPA Representative and Dr. Kambiz Kabiri, National Programme Analyst  were invited by Dr. Marzieh Farshad, Director General of Welfare Organization and Secretary of the Elderly Council to share their technical experiences with the city managers and members of the Elderly Council. 

Within the frame work of the 6th Country programme (CP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the I.R. of Iran and in response to the rapid transition in the age structure of Iran’s population, the issue of elderly is among subjects of the UNFPA programme activities.

In this CP, UNFPA will provide support to population and development stakeholders to increase the availability of population data and analysis to inform strategies and action plans on the implications and benefits of the demographic dividend.

Due to the fertility decline and increased longevity, it is expected that Iran will face rapid population ageing in the coming decades.  The government stakeholders including Ministry of Cooperative, Labour and Social Welfare, State Welfare Organization, Statistical Center of Iran, Ministry of Health and Medical Education and Tehran University are working closely with UNFPA to address the issue of ageing within the framework of the 6th National Development Plan of the Country.


مرداد 97 - حمایت از زنان و دختران در بحران نیازمند تلاش های سریع است

زنان و دخترانی که در جنگ ها و بلایا از خانه و خانواده خود جدا می شوند، در معرض خطر تجاوز، استثمار و آزار بیشتری قرار دارند. با این حال دسترسی به اردوگاه پناهندگان یا سایر مکان هایی که خدمات بشردوستانه ارائه می شوند، الزاما این خطرات را از بین نمی برد.

یک دستشویی با نور ضعیف یا پمپ آبی که خارج از محدوده دید ماموران امنیتی است، می تواند مکان خطرناکی باشد که زنان و دختران در آنجا به اهداف خشونت جنسی تبدیل شوند. در صورت عدم وجود امنیت، آنها ممکن است تصمیم بگیرند که از خدمات موجود استفاده نکنند. زن بارداری که قرار است زایمان کند ممکن است با دوراهی دشواری مواجه شود: خودش به تنهایی زایمان کند یا خطر احتمال حمله در حین جستجوی یک ماما یا کلینیک ، را بپذیرد.    

هیج زنی نباید مجبور به گرفتن چنین تصمیمی شود. گاهی راه حل ها به سادگی نصب چراغ های بیشتری در پناهگاه ها یا    اطمینان یافتن از قرار داشتن خدمات ضروری در مکان های عمومی است. با این حال، اغلب راه حل ها نیازمند اقدامات هماهنگ تر برای حل نابرابری های جنسیتی است که خشونت علیه زنان را تداوم می بخشد.

 امسال در روز جهانی بشر دوستی، من از تمام فعالان بشردوستی میخواهم تا به وظایف مشترکمان در جهت محافظت از  آسیب پذیران از صدمه، به ویژه حفاظت از حقوق، امنیت ، سلامتی و جان زنان و دختران، عمل کنند. صندوق جمعیت ملل متحد، سهم خود را با ارائه مراقبت های بهداشت باروری برای زنان در کشورهای آسیب دیده از بحران، ایجاد فضاهای امن برای زنان و دختران و خدمات برای بازماندگان خشونت جنسی انجام می دهد. با حمایت تمام جامعه بشردوست، ما می توانیم خطراتی که روزانه میلیون ها زن و دختر با آن رو به رو هستند را به طور چشم گیری کاهش دهیم.  


19 August 2018 - Urgent Efforts Needed to Protect Women and Girls in Crises

  • Published in Other

Women and girls uprooted by war or disaster are at heightened risk of rape, exploitation and abuse. Yet reaching a refugee camp or other places where humanitarian services are available does not necessarily eliminate these risks.

A poorly lit lavatory or a water pump that is out of view of security officers can be dangerous places where women and girls can become targets for sexual violence. Where security is lacking, they may choose not to take advantage of services available to them. A pregnant woman who is about to give birth may face an impossible choice: deliver on her own or risk being attacked as she seeks the help of a nearby midwife or clinic.

No woman should have to make such a decision. Sometimes the solutions are as simple as installing more lights in camps or making sure critical services are situated in public areas. However, often the solutions require more concerted action to address underlying gender inequalities that perpetuate violence against women.

On this World Humanitarian Day, I call on all humanitarian actors to meet our shared obligation to protect the vulnerable from harm, and especially to protect the rights, safety, health and lives of women and girls. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is doing its part by providing life-saving reproductive health care to women in crisis-affected countries, safe spaces for women and girls, and services for survivors of sexual violence. With the support of the entire humanitarian community, we can dramatically reduce the risks faced every day by millions of women and girls.


12 August 2018 - Joint event of UNFPA, UNESCO and UNICEF on the occasion of International Youth Day 2018

  • Published in Other

On 12 August, UNFPA, UNESCO and UNICEF in a joint event with Ministry of Sport and Youth, Iranian National Commission of UNESCO and Embassy of South Korea celebrated the International Youth Day.

At the beginning, Dr. Joudane UNFPA representative, Dr. Parks UNICEF representative, Dr. Soltanzadeh UNESCO OIC, Mr. Tondgouyan Deputy Minister, Dr. Namvar from National commission and Mr. Gwak from South Korean Embassy  within a panel Gave speeches Regarding Youth and their important role in society and the role each organization can play in supporting the youth in Iran.

Dr. Joudane in her speech noted that, UNFPA programme is fully committed to support efforts of governments and civil society to develop the greatest asset of Iran. Youth especially young girls are at the core of UNFPA 6th country programme. At the time when Iran is experiencing a unique demographic profile with the majority of youth, more than 30% of the Iranian population is between 15 and 29 years old, the programme aims at utilizing the capacity of this young generation, and realizes the gender and demographic dividend.

As the second half of the event started, 15 selected youth from different NGOs presented their work and recommendations in areas of environment, cultural heritage, health, sports and tourism.

At the end, the Panel members agreed that it is important to develop a multi-sectoral national plan to support youth in Iran.

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