OPENING SPEECH BY SECRETARY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
– Bredina Drollet
(1 October 2014, Te Atukura Grounds, 9.30am to 12noon)
“Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All”
This is the theme for this year’s International Day for Older Persons.
“Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All” International Day for Older Persons is part of a global movement to better recognise the issues affecting older persons and appreciate their contributions to society.
In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons. Since the early 1980s, leaders had expressed concerns with the capacity to cater for an ageing population, for their care and protection, for the potential loss in knowledge and contribution, and have been looking at ways of better preparing for an increase in the number of people above the age of 60 within countries and globally.
In 1991, the United Nations agreed to a set of principles that were important for Governments to consider when looking at programs targeting older persons. These principles target Independence; Participation; Care; Self-fulfilment; and Dignity. I won’t go through all the principles but will touch on a few that are important here in the Cook Islands:
- Older persons should have independence in meeting their daily needs such as food, water, health care;
- Older persons should have independence by having the opportunity to work and determining when and at what pace they should withdraw from the labour force;
- Older persons should have independence by living in their own homes for as long as possible.
- Older persons should be able to participate in the development of policies that affect them
- Older persons should benefit from family and community care and protection
- Older persons should have access to health care to help them to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional well-being and to prevent and delay the onset of illness.
- Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.
These principles were set over 20 years ago but remain relevant for us here in the Cook Islands. We are a relatively young nation, but our population trends show that there are more people above the age of 60 living in the Cook Islands now than there has been ever before in our history.
This trend is expected to continue and grow over the coming decades. I would like to now refer back to the theme “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All”. When I first heard that this was the theme, set by people that live far away from here, probably in an office in New York, I couldn’t help but be amused.
These words are almost exactly the words of our founding father, Papa Arapati Henry, at the formation of our self government 50 years ago. That “no one in the tribe was to be left out.” So this year’s theme is quite fitting as it reflects the community spirit of our culture that no-one should be left behind and that everyone, regardless of age, has a role in our Cook Islands society.
So today is about recognition of the role of older persons in our community, to the mamas and papas, in all activities that you are engaged in, your continued role in business and employment, your importance and support as grandparents and carers, your wisdom and guidance as community leaders in the development of our nation.
Today is a day of celebration for you and about you. In turn, today is also a reminder that we must ensure that your rights are protected and promoted and that we ensure that those who have lost independence due to age are cared for with love and dignity.
I would like to close with a quote from the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. “Older persons make wide-ranging contributions to economic and social development. However, discrimination and social exclusion persist. We must overcome this bias in order to ensure a socially and economically active, secure and healthy ageing population.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon