On 7th December 2015, the EU-funded AFE-INNOVNET Thematic Network on innovation for age-friendly environments officially launched the Covenant on Demographic Change. The Covenant is set to become the new EU-wide association gathering local, regional and national authorities, civil society organisations, universities, and businesses that commit to cooperate and implement evidence-based solutions to support active and healthy ageing as a comprehensive answer to Europe’s demographic challenge. 77 organisations have confirmed their willingness to join the Covenant, including 46 local and regional authorities.
The Covenant is the result of a long process started during the European Year 2012 on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Thanks to a call for proposal issued by the European Commission, a Thematic Network on Innovation for Age-Friendly Environments, AFE-INNOVNET, had been set up under the coordination of AGE, whose overarching goal was too launch the Covenant.
Why a Covenant on Demographic Change?
Europe is rapidly ageing. People aged 65+ represented 17.4% of the population in 2010 and this is set to reach 30% in 2060. Therefore, today’s urgency is to find sustainable solutions to empower people to live healthily, actively and independently for longer, in order to lower the pressure put on family carers and on public health and long-term care budgets, as well as to enhance quality of life and well-being in later age.As main providers of services and responsible for territorial planning, public authorities are playing a key role here. This is why, with the support of the Committee of the Regions, the European Commission, notably the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, and in close cooperation with the World Health Organisation, more than 150 subnational authorities, research centres and civil society organisations have prepared together the launch the Covenant on Demographic Change.
By joining the Covenant, European local and regional authorities will position themselves at the forefront in addressing population ageing. They will benefit from a wide range of opportunities for mutual learning and partnership, various tools to implement and assess the impact of their age-friendly initiatives, and will lead the way to help Europe become age-friendly.
A successful event
While being the official launch of the Covenant on Demographic Change, the 7th of December was also the opportunity for future and potential members to meet each other and to start working together. More than 170 participants, coming from 26 countries, joined us at the Committee of the Regions, while participants were also able to follow the event remotely via Internet. The event gathered a wide range of high level speakers starting with the President of the Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula, and a video message from Commissioner Marianne Thyssen.
The morning session was the opportunity to set the scene and to highlight the connection between the Covenant and different initiatives from international organisations such as:
- the World Health Organisation, with the recently launched report “Ageing and Health” and the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
- the OECD, with the report “Ageing in Cities”
- the European Commission, namely with the “Silver Economy Strategy” and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing
The afternoon session was more focused on the Covenant itself notably with the testimonies of representatives of cities and regions both about their current initiatives in relation to an ageing population and on their commitments towards the Covenant: Biscay (Spain), Groningen (Netherlands), Krakow (Poland), Udine (Italy), Wales (UK), Warsaw (Poland). The future synergies were also discussed with the European Commission, the Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) Association, the Age-Friendly Ireland Network, and the city of Groningen in the framework of the Dutch Presidency. Last but not least, some Members of the European Parliament also participated actively to the launch, e.g. Sirpa Pietikainen and Lambert Van Nistelrooij, both part of the Intergroup on active ageing.
During the event, it was announced that 46 Local and regional authorities, 15 Civil society organisations and foundations, 10 Universities and research centres and 6 Businesses partners had already committed to join the Covenant on Demographic Change.
The full report of the three-day event will be made available on the website of the Covenant by end of January 2016. The presentations made during the event are available here.
How does the Covenant work?
The Covenant on Demographic Change is legally established as an international non-profit association under the Belgian law and is open to all interested parties that voluntarily commit to making age-friendly environments a reality in their communities and to sharing their experience with other Covenant members, as stated in the Dublin Declaration 2013 on age-friendly cities and communities in Europe and in alignment with the WHO global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.
There are three different categories of members:
- Full members: for local, regional and national public authorities, as well as for legally established network of local and regional authorities
- Ordinary members: for all non-for profit organisations as well as informal networks of local and regional authorities. Local, regional and national authorities not ready to commit to an age-friendly action plan can also apply as ordinary member
- Association members: dedicated to for-profit stakeholders.
The registration process is pretty easy since it can be done online via the website of the Covenant. The activities of the Covenant are not yet set in stone, they will be defined step by step according to members’ contribution and willingness to take the lead for a specific activity. In 2016, different events should give the opportunity to Covenant’s members to meet each other: for example, the congress of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (20-22 April, Nicosia) with a workshop on demographic change, and the conference of the University of Groningen on Health and Built Environment (1-3 June). Other doors are open but still need to be confirmed notably with our partners in Barcelona and in Ireland. The 2016 Open Days should also give interesting opportunities.
For more information, please contact Julia Wadoux, AFE-INNOVNET Coordinator, at email@example.com
or Tel.: +32.2.280.14.70