Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

11 April 2002


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
MADRID, 11 April -- Among the issues raised at the Second World Assembly on Ageing as it continued its general exchange of views on the fourth day of its work this morning were the situation of older people in the occupied Palestinian territories, the impact of the market economy in countries in economic transition and the importance of learning from and preserving the respect for older generations in more traditional societies.
A call for international action to alleviate the suffering of all Palestinian people, including the elderly, was made by the representative for Palestine. The collective punishment which the Palestinian people had suffered had negatively affected the entire population, but the highest price has been paid by the elderly, she said. A number of other delegations expressed similar concerns.
“We must not permit this Assembly -- like so many other international conferences before it -- to be hijacked by those with a narrow and hostile political agenda”, Israel’s representative said. It was also important to remember that the perpetrators of vicious acts of terrorism -- and especially those who had targeted innocent civilians with suicide bombers -- had claimed victims among the elderly. 



      HERZL INBAR (Israel): ...


We must not permit this Assembly -- like so many other international conferences before it -- to be hijacked by those with a narrow and hostile political agenda. Those who use this podium to attack Israel instead of focusing on the real issues of this Assembly should ask themselves what their own countries have done to further the needs of their ageing populations, as well as other parts of their society, instead of wasting their resources and energies on policies that are based on hatred and violence against Israel. We must also remember that the perpetrators of vicious acts of terrorism, and especially those who have targeted innocent civilians with suicide bombers, have claimed victims among the elderly. Among the Israeli civilians murdered at the hands of ruthless killers, more than 50 were people over the age of 60. Last month alone, terrorism claimed the lives of 25 elderly Israeli citizens, some of them survivors of the Holocaust some 60 years ago. In a gathering like this, and indeed, nowhere in the world, should their murderous criminal approach be given any legitimacy whatsoever.


DJAMEL OULD ABBAS, Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity of Algeria: Since the First World Assembly, the world has experienced great upheavals in all areas of social and economic activities. As a result, we have been forced to take action to meet the challenges facing the world today. Among those challenges is the ageing of the world population. International cooperation and the participation of all levels of society are of great importance for tackling the problems that arise.
  The problems associated with globalization often put the vulnerable groups of societies, including the elderly, in special peril. Africa is one of the regions where older people suffer from the consequences of the economic problems encountered by their societies. One cannot remain silent over the tragic conditions of the Palestinian people who are struggling for their fundamental rights. The most elementary rights of the Palestinian people are being denied. We must condemn Israeli policies and practices, for it is not only the young people, but also older people who are being victimized. We must put an end to this humanitarian disaster.

HUSSEIN MAJED (Lebanon): ...


As one of the Arab countries that continue to suffer from the repercussions of the Israeli occupation, we believe that the sufferings of the Palestinian people represent unjustified genocide and a violation of their human rights. Those of the elderly in Palestine and in my country, who survived the massacres and remained outside of prisons, are in the vanguard of those who are defending their dignity, their honour and their land. Arab Lebanon -- the Muslim and Christian Lebanon, which embodies peace and love -- entreats this Assembly to call for the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East in accordance with relevant resolutions. Each and every human being deserves life without discrimination. 

TALAT H. ALWAZNA (Saudi Arabia): ...


We believe in a modern, integrated and holistic approach to ageing that will ensure independence for persons of all ages and ensure that proper social care is provided for all age groups. As this Assembly is about to adopt a revised Plan of Action and Political Declaration, it is critical to consider the situation of older Palestinian people, as they are powerless and have no recourse to address what was being done to them through Israeli aggression. We, like other delegations participating in this conference, condemn what is being to done to them and all Palestinian people and we hope that the outcome of the Assembly will ensure the rights of older persons throughout the world.

SORAIA BARGHOUTI, representative for Palestine: As a result of the grave deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, we deeply regret that we have not been able to give you first-hand information about the situation in which our people live, particularly the elderly. This is truly saddening, as our older populations and all our people continue to live under the tyranny of Israeli occupation. Those actions are being committed in total contravention of international humanitarian law and, most significantly, the many resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. We call on the international community to intervene to urge Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to put an end such savage practices. 
In order to help older persons in developing countries, it is imperative to review policies and priorities at both the national and international levels in order to ensure continued assistance to them and to promote their full inclusion and participation in the development of their communities. The people of Palestine have been living under the harsh conditions of brutal Israeli occupation for nearly 35 years now.  Since September 2000, Israel, the occupying Power, has intensified its bloody military attacks on the Palestinian people living in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, resulting in the killing of more than 1,200 Palestinian children, women, men and elderly persons. While the collective punishment which the Palestinian people have suffered -- including forced detention and curfews -- has negatively affected the entire population, the highest price has been paid by the elderly. Those persons have been deprived of all fundamental rights and dignity and have been forced to walk long distances under perilous conditions and have lost access to even basic necessities such as food and water. The most critical situation is in Palestinian refugee camps. 
We can do little to help the situation of our older persons as the occupying Power has paralysed any and all development and implemented a military rule which has suspended regulations governing civil society and social activity. In short, Israel has destroyed everything that we have built with your support. But even in the face of such intolerable conditions, the Palestinian Authority has been striving to create the foundation for a State framework that balances the duties and rights of its citizens. The most significant ministry created under the Authority’s initiatives has been the Ministry of Social Affairs, which focuses great attention on the situation of the elderly. By the year 2025, the total number of Palestinians over 65 will constitute an estimated 10 per cent of the population. The Ministry provides care to all persons in need, including the elderly, and is working to implement various initiatives on their behalf, including promoting and strengthening the role of the family to enable older persons to care for themselves, and establishing mobile health service to reach older persons in need wherever they are.  
In all this, we call on the international community, the United Nations and the donor community to bear their responsibilities towards all our people, including the elderly, in order to alleviate their suffering. We call on global actors to establish an international force to provide protection for the Palestinian people until Israel fully withdraws from the occupied Palestinian territories.
* *** *
For information media - not an official record