Closing remarks of Mathew Cherian, Chief Executive of HelpAge India and a representative of HelpAge International

HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference: The Economic Implications of Ageing
Hanoi, Vietnam


7 September 2016

It is my honour to make a closing remarks on behalf of HelpAge Network today. In 2004 we organised another regional conference in this very same city of Hanoi. I was a member then.  And it has been exciting to witness the progress over the years.  And the leadership of Eduardo, it had been more inclusive.  We have included people from various sectors, academics, professionals, parliamentarians, ministers etc.

So when some months ago when Eduardo consulted me on the theme on Economic Implications of Ageing, I thought it was very timely and relevant.  So here we see this conference has been successfully done.  The issues we discussed were workforce, health, income, markets, policy making and private sector.  These are all very crucial elements.  But today the issue across countries in the Asia Pacific is not whether we can implement these policies or we can not.  The debates today in many of the countries including my own country, the debate between the ‘have’ and the ‘have not’.  So we have to be looking at inclusive growth, we have to be looking at equitable growth and at the same time we have to end ‘ageism’ and age discrimination.  This is what we have to look at.

In this respect, this conference provides a unique opportunity and many of us in the network have been working on ageing for many years, but this is the first time, we were able to look at issues, policy issues.   Because many of us are activists, we would like to go out and scream that things are not happening.  Our familiar pattern of development is mobilised, organised and agitated.   This is what we are good at and this is what we do best.  But to understand policies, in fact takes a lot of time and this conference had helped us.  So I would say Philip O’Keefe from the World Bank, in his book said ‘Live Long and Prosper’ and I think that would be the theme that we have to look at.  In my own country,  when we blessed others we say ‘may you live a hundred years’ so I hope all of us will live to a hundred year and also prosper.  I think this conference will be the beginning of the road and as a chairperson of HelpAge International, Mr Arun Maira said there had been a lot of good works done by our affiliates.  The Vietnam Association of the Elderly, the Vietnam Association of Women, we have visited them, we have seen the good work.  Our Chairperson had written in the Indian newspaper on how good work is going on and we would like to commend our affiliates who are doing such good works.  Tomorrow you will get to see these efforts and I of course have seen these efforts and I hope we can replicate it across the country and influence policy makers.  And as the minister said the Prime Minister’s Office in Vietnam had said that this model of work with the elderly is one which should be continued and Prime Minister ordered, is available outside the hall, I read it and I was so pleased that this work had reached that level.

We think we have to work in the way of Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Leaves no one behind’ is fulfilled.  So we have to include all sections of people.  We have to include the young, we have to include the old, we have to include the poor, we have to include the rich, we have to include the private sector and we have to include other sectors also.  So I would like to first of all, call on the parliamentarians, AFPPD and political representatives, please join us in our struggle for pensions and for healthcare and I think that will be a good effort that you the parliamentarians will be able to do.  And to the various presenters, academics, professors, economists, thank you for the very good presentations you made.  And I would like us to give them a good hand for educating us.   And I would like to thank the secretariat of the HelpAge International, Goddy, Quyen, Meredith, various other people who worked tirelessly, the people from Chiang mai office, London office, the government of Vietnam and our supporters, UNFPA, Age International, EU, WHO, UNESCAP and AFPPD, please give them a hand for supporting us in this whole thing.

I think the time has come to change.  Our father of the nation, Mohammad Gandhi said the change has to begin with us. So unless we work in that way, be the change that you want to see, I don’t think this will go anywhere forward.  So I hope many of you will take this and be the change and work towards it in various locations wherever you are, in the World Bank, UNFPA, ESCAP.  See that these policies are pushed forward so that the future generations, or even as Astrid said, we are all growing old, maybe we will see the day when we have good policies and good healthcare for all of us as we grow old.  Last but not least, I would like to thank Eduardo Klien for his leadership and please give him a hand for all the good work he had been doing.

Thank you.