In many parts of the world, older persons often face discrimination, poverty, violence and abuse, as well as lack of specific measures and services on the basis of age. To address the issue of protecting the human rights of older persons, the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) kicked off its fifth working session in New York from 30 July to 1 August.
The mandate of the working group, given by the General Assembly, is to consider the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons and identify possible gaps and how best to address them, including by considering the feasibility of further instruments and measures. The fifth session of the OEWG featured three panel discussions focusing on the human rights and care of older persons; on violence and abuse against older persons (with a focus on older women and financial abuse); planning for end of life care (with a focus on legal and financial issues); as well discussions on how to strengthen the rights of older persons through enhanced implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA).
Member States shares views
More than 80 Member States attended the fifth session of the OEWG. While all speakers referred to the urgent need to foster the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons, Member States expressed diverging views on how to best go about it.
While all speakers referred to the urgent need to foster the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons, Member States expressed diverging views on how to best go about it.
Some Member States noted that many protection gaps are already being considered in an exhaustive manner under the umbrella of MIPAA, which remains the point of reference. Certain Member States continue to be of the view that there is a need for further implementation and upholding of existing human rights standards and mechanisms at national and regional levels, rather than developing new ones, and that for the time being, they do not see a need for a new international convention for the rights of older persons.
On the other hand, other Member States reiterated their position in support of a new legally binding international convention on the human rights of older persons and called for taking firm steps forward towards elaborating the main elements of such an instrument, while still others emphasized that more time is needed to be able to reach a consensus on the way forward.
Importance of civil society involvement
Around 40 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) attended the fifth session of the OEWG, and engaged in interactive dialogue with delegations and experts in attendance. NGOs noted that while non-binding agreements, such as MIPAA and the UN Principles for Older Persons, provide excellent guidance and inspiration, in reality they are largely ignored by Governments. Most NGOs called for the establishment of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People. In their view, a Convention would help bridge gaps in the protection of the rights of older people in areas such as elder abuse, dementia, nursing home regulation, protection of the family, employment and pensions, social security and the right to an adequate standard of living and health.
Older Persons and the Post-2015 Agenda
Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, addressed the OEWG for the first time. She was welcomed by both Member States and NGO representatives who noted that her mandate will bring genuine added value and complement the ongoing work of the OEWG.
Ms. Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on post-2015 development addressed the OEWG and stated that “not addressing the population over 60 means not addressing 20 per cent of the population in the post-2015 agenda.” Ms. Mohammed called for “all hands on deck” and encouraged NGOs to keep advocating and to renew their engagement to contribute to a stronger and more effective post-2015 agenda.