UN RC Opening Speech at presentation of the Special Report on Discrimination against Older Persons in Serbia

Speech by Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia

Uvažene ekselencije, članovi parlamenta, kolege,

Hvala Vam što ste me pozvali na ovu važnu diskusiju danas. Thank you for inviting me to this important discussion today.

Čestitam poverenici Brankici Janković i njenom timu za pripremu ovog specijalnog izveštaja o starima i starenju. Congratulations to the Commissioner Jankovic and her team for putting together this special report on aging.

Takođe hvala parlamentu za organizaciju ovog događaja. I extend my appreciation to the Parliament for hosting the event.

A sada, na engleskom, inače će govor trajati predugo

Each of us in this room was reminded last year of the multiple vulnerabilities of our elders, who were the most affected by the pandemic, both in their physical health and mental health. Each one of us in the room will face one or more of these challenges in the years or decades to come.

I have 3 points for today’s topic:

First, the world is undergoing a huge age shift. The number of people aged 60 and over is projected to increase in higher-income countries by 20% between 2019 and 2030, while the number of children aged 0–14 years old will decline by 5%. In Serbia, people about 65 years account to almost 21% of the population. Most of us can expect to live many years longer than our parents’ generations. These longer lives are a huge achievement driven by improvements in health care. But most societies across the world are not enough prepared for the implications of the age. In the wake of the pandemic, on 14 December 2020, The United Nations General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the Decade of Healthy Ageing, Deceniju zdravog starenja.  The UN Resolution (75/131), states that the world is not sufficiently prepared to respond to the rights and needs of older people, despite the predictability of population ageing and its accelerating pace. It acknowledges that the ageing of the population impacts our health systems and many other aspects of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as education, housing, long-term care, social protection and information. So this meeting in Serbia is most timely.

My second point is on the fact that “Older people” are not a homogeneous group, and there is not One-Fit-All solution. The differences exist in terms of their occupation and multiple roles in the community, their health and mental status, income and financial means, their access to services, their isolation from or integration in social networks, in urban vs rural contexts, their ability to embrace digitalization, their gender etc. This report provides a detailed overview of all these differences. I believe for the first time, we have access to evidence that will help to develop and shape new solutions. These solutions, as much as possible, should allow elders to stay in their home and their community, have a healthy and independent lifestyle. Most importantly, future actions should address discrimination, violence, abuse or neglect against older people and reduce the gap between the richest and poorest people in a disability-free life.

My third point is about the need to have a coordinated approach between multiple stakeholders, institutions, at national/local levels. It will require cross-sector collaboration, including with businesses and the voluntary sector working together to develop innovative solutions with both economic and social benefits. Dealing with aging also include breaking stereotypes and we will promote extensive inter-generational approaches, bringing the old and the young together, developing new skills in the care industry, valuing these new jobs, promoting healthy lifestyles, and ensuring a voice for all. The United nations in Serbia supports such multi sectoral approach, and several agencies are already actively involved, in particular the United Nations Population Fund. In our engagement with the government for the period of 2021 to 2025, we have included the development of human capital and well-being across generations as one of 3 strategic priorities. It is our hope that a national aging strategy and this intergenerational approach will be reflected in Serbia future Sustainable Development Plan.


As a conclusion, I would like to say that this topic is not simply an issue of pensions and social care, but needs action from across the government, the civil society and the private sector. I trust this event today will galvanise our joint action, with empathy and a sense of urgency. Hvala!

Speech by
Françoise Jacob
UN Resident Coordinator
Françoise Jacob
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office