28.03.2017 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Spotlight in Asia-Pacific on policy innovations to tackle the challenges of ageing and gender inequality

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The First Asia-Pacific MOST Forum of Ministers of Social Development marked an important milestone in the efforts of governments across the Asia-Pacific region to promote inclusive social development, with particular attention to the issues confronted by the elderly and women. From 20 to 23 March 2017, Ministers and Senior Officials came together in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to engage with researchers and social scientists on different dimensions of these challenges. The Forum also showcased substantive collaboration between UN agencies, with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and other UN entities making a valuable contribution. H.E. Ms Dato’Sri Rohani Abdul Karim, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, was elected President of the Forum.

The analytical researched commissioned by UNESCO in the lead-up to the forum formed basis of discussions and exchange of ideas and experiences between researchers and officials, as well as among the countries. The research highlighted the trends of population ageing in Asia and the Pacific, accompanied by declining fertility and mortality rates. Currently, around 60 percent of the world’s elderly are from the Asia Pacific region. From 2016 to 2050, the number of older persons in the region is expected to more than double from 547 million to 1.3 billion. By 2050, one in four people are expected to be over 60 years old and the proportion of the “oldest-old”, that is, those in the 80+ cohort, is expected to comprise one-fifth of the elderly population.

The discussions focused on the gender dimension of ageing. In Asia and the Pacific, as in most parts of the world, demographic trends have shown that more women than men join the old age cohorts. On average, women outlive men by at least four years. Because women continue to face economic and cultural barriers to fully participate in society at every stage of their lives, the cumulative effect of discrimination can be especially onerous towards older age.

The participants of the Forum adopted an Outcome Document of the Asia-Pacific Forum, which affirms the importance of supporting national and regional research within UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, in collaboration with universities, research institutions and individual researchers, in order to fill research gaps and ensure that public policies are informed by knowledge.

The Outcome Document reflects the appreciation of the Members States for UNESCO’s capacity-building initiatives designed to assist governments in the realization of 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, particularly the MOST Schools that are proliferating in different regions of the world. The participants of the Forum will bring the Outcome Document to the attention of their respective governments to consider follow-up actions.

The participating countries have commended the Government of Malaysia for the initiative to organize and host the Forum in Kuala Lumpur, and encouraged Member States to consider convening a 2nd MOST Ministerial Forum in the Asia-Pacific Region. 

For more information about the Forum, please consult the following documents:


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