Day Two: Seven Ways to Build Support for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons has now released her report to the Human Rights Council. You can read the report in full here.

In the report, the Independent Expert concludes that older people face particular challenges to their rights. She finds that the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and the implementation of existing law are insufficient to provide full protection. The Independent Expert calls on the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) to fulfil its mandate and present a proposal to the UN General Assembly on the main elements of a new convention.

Over the next few months, UN member states will have a number of important opportunities to discuss how best to protect the rights of older people. This level of activity is rare, and it is essential that governments hear from a broad variety of stakeholders, including citizens like you.

Over the next few days, in cooperation with HelpAge International, we will be posting seven easy steps you can take before the 7th Open-Ended Working Group convenes in December. Please feel free to share this information broadly. We can all do our part to build support for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People.

Day Two: Sign This Joint Statement

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Join prominent NGOs in sharing and signing this joint statement in response to the Independent Expert’s Report.

To add your organization’s signature, contact Bridget Sleap of HelpAge International.

1. As non-governmental organisations committed to strengthening the rights older persons, we welcome the conclusions in the report of the Independent Expert (A/HRC/33/44) that older people face a number of particular challenges in the enjoyment of a wide range of their human rights; that the implementation of existing law raises a set of protection concerns; and that the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (hereafter the Madrid Plan) is not sufficient to ensure the full protection of older people’s rights.

2. The Independent Expert’s report addresses a key area of discussion at the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing [hereafter the Working Group], namely whether the implementation of the Madrid Plan and existing laws can adequately address the unique human rights challenges that older people face across many aspects of their lives.

3. The Independent Expert acknowledges several good or promising practices. However, based on the information provided to her as part of her mandate by Member States, civil society organisations, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders, she has concluded that neither the Madrid Plan nor existing laws are sufficient to address current gaps in the protection of the rights of older people.

4. The Independent Expert’s finding on the Madrid Plan confirms similar findings in the first and second review and appraisal of the plan in 2007 and 2012 respectively, as well as discussion in Working Group sessions to date.  The Independent Expert is unequivocal in her finding that better implementation of the Madrid Plan will not be sufficient to address the human rights protection gaps that older people experience. Continued assertions, therefore, by Member States that it will be sufficient can no longer be sustained.

5. With regard to the implementation of existing law, the Independent Expert’s findings affirm that implementation of existing law is inadequate to fully protect older people’s rights. As human rights law has evolved, decisions to adopt new human rights treaties have been based on a similar recognition that the implementation of existing general human rights standards has failed to protect people from particular forms of discrimination and rights violations. The fact that there is a difference of opinion among Member States on whether there is a normative gap can no longer be used as a reason to prevent or delay the elaboration of the contents of a new convention on the rights of older people.

6. We therefore welcome the Independent Expert’s emphasis on the need for Member States to step up their efforts and act urgently to overcome their differences as millions of older people continue to be subjected to ageism, discrimination and denied their human rights.

7. We fully support the Independent Expert’s recommendation that the Working Group fulfil its existing mandate by presenting a proposal on the main elements of an international legal instrument to the UN General Assembly, as it was requested to do by the General Assembly in 2012. The failure of the UN Working Group to fulfil this mandate given to it four years ago is unacceptable and the elaboration of the contents of a new convention can no longer be delayed.

8. We also call on Member States to support a resolution at the Human Rights Council that contributes to the substantive understanding on how human rights standards, and States’ human rights obligations in relation to them, apply to older people and in the context of older age.

9. We trust that the mandate of the Independent Expert will be renewed for a further term. We are concerned that the experience of older people and the particular context of older age is still not being sufficiently addressed or understood from a human rights perspective. Setting the mandate of the Independent Expert for a second term provides the opportunity to empower the mandate holder to apply this perspective, for example through a critical analysis of the extent to which existing international and national laws guarantee the rights of older people and the challenges older people face in the realisation of their rights within these systems.

10. Older people themselves must be part of the discussion on the protection of their human rights and a new convention must reflect their lived experience. We therefore call on Member States to take immediate action after this Human Rights Council session and meet with older people, civil society and the national human rights institution in their country to discuss the findings of theIndependent Expert’s report and what this means to older people for the contents of a new convention.

11. Finally, we call on Member States to adopt a resolution at the UN General Assembly that supports the establishment and elaboration of a new convention on the rights of older people and to participate constructively in the 7th session of the Working Group in December 2016. This includes supporting the Working Group Bureau to adopt an agenda that allows for discussion between Member States on the contents of a new convention; consulting with older people before theWorking Group session; including older people on their delegations; and coming to the 7th Working Group session prepared to discuss what the contents of a new convention should be.