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UK Government's Strategy for International Development must include the needs and rights of older people

Published on 24 May 2022 06:31 PM

The UK Government’s Strategy for International Development sets out a whole-government 10-year vision for how it will help to achieve better outcomes for people in low and middle-income countries. The Strategy has four main priorities:

• Deliver honest and reliable investment

• Provide women and girls with the freedom they need to succeed

• Provide life-saving humanitarian assistance

• Take forward [the UK’s] work on climate change, nature, and global health

We welcome the Government’s efforts to articulate more clearly how it will take forward its work in supporting international development, but we are disappointed that the Strategy did not refer explicitly to the impact of global ageing, did not consider needs throughout the life course, or address the specific needs and rights of older people. The 7,385 members of the UK public who requested that the Government include older women in its International Development Strategy are also disappointed[2].

 According to the Government in the Strategy, “success means unleashing the potential of people in low- and middle-income countries to improve their lives”. Achieving this success is not possible unless the contributions and potential of older people are properly included. Age International highlighted the importance of taking into account the contributions of older women in our report “Older women: the hidden workforce”. By not referring to older people, the International Development Strategy does not do justice to the positive work the Government has done in recent times to recognise the needs and rights of older people.

Not including older people goes against the core principles of “leave no one behind” that are integral to the Sustainable Development Goals that the UK was instrumental in creating. It is also not consistent with the Government’s Integrated Review[3] published in 2021 that identified population ageing as one of the demographic trends the Government needs to consider.

 Beneath this top-level International Development Strategy, however, is another layer of the FCDO’s work that does take older people better into account.

The recently published Disability Strategy[4] recognises the experience and rights of older people and commits the FCDO to take “a life course approach, aiming to protect the rights of all people at all stages of their lives.”

  • An FCDO position paper[5] identified that “Health systems need to consider and plan for wider demographic changes, addressing the needs of both an ageing population and a growing youth generation”.
  • The UK Government has been instrumental in recent years in supporting the roll-out of social protection for older people in Uganda and Kenya that has improved the income security of hundreds of thousands of older people in these countries.
  • The UK championed the creation of the Titchfield City Group on Ageing[6] that aims to provide tools for collecting better data on older people across the globe.
  • The UK has been a vocal supporter of the rights of older people at the UN, committing in principle to the creation of a UN convention on the rights of older people in the 11th and 12th Sessions of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing[7].

The International Development Strategy’s commitments to providing women and girls with the freedom they need, providing humanitarian assistance, and addressing global health, all have the potential for helping people of all ages, but only if the Government makes clear how its Strategy will deliver for all age groups.

We expect the next phase of the Government’s roll-out of its Strategy to include specific metrics on how it will clearly include older people. Without this, its aspirations for a better world for all will not be met.


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Last updated: May 30 2022

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