Enhancing the voice of older persons

Human-Settlements-Places-Where-People-Live-and-Work (UN Photo John Issac)

Older persons are often given low priority when it comes to society’s development agenda, as they are regarded as unable to contribute to the development effort or benefiting from it. However, the rapid growth of people aged 60 and above, from 700 million in 2009 to a projected 2 billion by 2050, will have a far-reaching impact on society. As a result, the effective exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms for people of all ages is crucial.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the General Assembly, proclaims, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.” In the case of older persons, however, there is no instrument to protect their rights, while there is protection for other groups that are subject to discrimination.

The Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing was established in December 2010 by the General Assembly. The First Session opened on 18 April at the UN in New York. “Age discrimination is a serious human rights violation” Mr. Jorge Martín Arturo Argüello, Chair of the Working Group and Ambassador at the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN, said in his opening statement.

According to the growth trend, 80 per cent of older persons will be living in developing countries. The delegate from China highlighted the need to accommodate the various needs of developing countries, as they face the biggest difficulties.

Enhancing rights could be achieved by increasing participation of older persons in society. The delegate from the European Union stressed the importance of “active participation”, which not only includes employment of older people, but also contribution through volunteer work and other social integrations.

The session will be concluded on 21 April with a presentation of existing gaps in the current situation of human rights of older persons around the world, along with suggested measures to address them.

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