First of all, please allow me to offer, on behalf of the Chinese Government and in my own name, my warm congratulations on Your Excellency's election as chairman of the Assembly and the convocation of this Assembly. I also wish to express my heartfelt thanks to the Spanish Government and the Organizing Committee of this Assembly for their efforts to make the smooth opening of the Assembly a reality. The Chinese delegation is ready to work together with Your Excellency and other delegations for its complete success.
The first World Assembly on Ageing held 20 years ago is an important milestone in the history of the global undertakings on ageing. Over the past two decades, the international community and governments of various countries, NGOs included, have made unremitting efforts in facilitating the implementation of the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing. The basic spirit and principles, as enshrined in the Plan of Action, are reflected in the formulation of macro-policies on economic and social development by governments and are well observed in its actual implementation.
Currently, with the rapid growth of world's older population, the issue of ageing is looming larger, particularly in developing countries, and has become a major social problem confronting all countries in the 21st century. Therefore, we deem it timely and highly necessary to convene this Assembly, which is of great significance to further arousing the entire society to the issue of ageing and will exert positive and far-reaching impact. The Chinese Government endorses the principles and objectives as elaborated in the International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002, the Political Declaration and other key documents to be adopted by the Assembly. To facilitate their implementation, I wish to make the following proposals on behalf of the Chinese Government:
Firstly, all countries should, in line with their national conditions, incorporate ageing into their economic and social development programs so that older people can enjoy the fruit of human progress on an equal basis as other members of society. This is an important responsibility of governments and also the responsibility of societies worldwide.
Secondly, all countries, developing countries in particular, should attribute importance to and actively promote the all-round economic development and social progress, take poverty eradication and better medicare and social security as their priority objectives and continue to work to improve the livelihood and health of older persons.
Thirdly, all countries should strengthen international cooperation on ageing on the basis of the principle of "learning from each other, equality and mutual benefit". With 80% of world's older population residing in developing countries, we appeal to the international community and developed countries to render, in the interests of common development of mankind, financial, technical and other assistance to developing countries to help them effectively address the issue of ageing.
China is a developing country home to the largest older population in the world, with one fifth of world's population aged over 60 living in this country. At present as many as 132 million Chinese are over 60. The Chinese Government has all along attached great importance to ageing and has set up coordination agencies on ageing-related work at all levels from central to local. For the development of undertakings on ageing, China has formulated a guiding principle of government providing the leadership while encouraging the collaboration between all parts of society and the care of the whole nation. China has also set up the long-term objectives of providing for older persons, ensuring them access to medical services, educational and training opportunities and recreational facilities and the chance to make contribution to society. It has promulgated and put in force the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Older Persons and local statues concerning older persons in an effort to eliminate discrimination of all descriptions against older persons and to protect their lawful rights and interests through legal, administrative and educational means. We have also drawn up programs for the development of ageing-related undertakings, introduced a host of major policies and measures aimed at promoting this cause and gradually developed a social security system for the elderly population. Special attention has been given to the difficulties and problems facing older women. Vigorous efforts have been made to improve community welfare services, health care, cultural and sports activities for older persons and to enhance the Chinese nation's long-standing virtues of respecting, providing for and assisting the elderly, accentuating the positive role of families. In addition, China has conducted systematic investigation and scientific research of ageing and has been active in international cooperation on ageing. Currently, there are up to 77,400 welfare facilities and 17,000 senior citizen universities housing 1.5 million students in both rural and urban areas nation-wide. The number of older people participating in sport activities and physical exercises on a regular basis has amounted to 30 million.
Practice has proven that the guiding principle and policies China has adopted and the actions taken correspondingly in this field are in keeping with China's national conditions and are the correct choice in protecting the basic human rights of hundreds of millions of elderly Chinese. With all-round economic development and social progress in China, the Chinese Government has the ability and confidence to confront ageing that has become an increasingly salient issue and to further elevate the quality of life of hundreds of millions of elderly Chinese. In the meantime, we appeal here at the Assembly to the international community to support China in its efforts to promote its undertakings on ageing.
The 21st century is one that is both promising and challenging. The history of evolvement of human society tells us that older population is an asset of society not a burden. They should not only be beneficiaries of social progress but also participants in social development. Though we are facing severe challenges of population ageing, we have full confidence in the future. Let us joint hands and work towards building "a society for all ages". We are convinced that the second World Assembly on Ageing will be remembered as another important milestone in the advancement of the global efforts in the interests of the elderly.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.