2019 was a decisive year for the future of Europe with the European Parliament elections and the nomination of a new Commission, to mention just two major EU institutional developments. We have just entered 2020, a new year and a new decade which look equally exciting and challenging for all generations.
What are 2020 key milestones for AGE?
As a European network voicing and promoting the interests of millions of citizens aged 50+ in the European Union, AGE has ambitious projects and expectations for 2020. Most importantly, we will be building on last year’s successful advocacy work which further brought attention of policy makers to Europe’s demographic challenge and the need to respect human rights at all ages. We count on our good cooperation with European Commission Vice President Ms Dubravka Šuica whose portfolio, for the first time ever in the history of the European Union, includes the issues of Democracy and Demography. Through our membership we will collect input to inform the drafting of the Green Paper on Ageing announced in Vice President Šuica’s mission letter.This paper will assess whether national social protection systems are fit to deal with the needs of EU ageing population.
Pursuing our focus on human rights in old age, we will cooperate with Commission Vice President Věra Jourová who is responsible for Values and Transparency, and Commissioners Helena Dalli and Didier Reynders, respectively responsible for Equality and for Justice, to ensure that AGE recommendations on non-discrimination and equality are mainstreamed in all relevant EU policies. We hope that 2020 will bring a new dynamic to discussions on the draft horizontal equality directive as part of EU actions on non-discrimination. AGE members will have a key role in this respect when building alliances with NGOs in their countries to ensure their government will support EU initiatives on non-discrimination and equality. We hope that this cooperation will increase the capacity of AGE members and civil society partners to combat multiple or intersectional forms of discrimination and promote equality. Notably, in 2020 we will seek to increase the visibility of multiple discrimination and inequalities faced by older people’s subgroups, including older Roma and older LGBT.
As ever, we will be advocating for more gender equality across the life span and contribute to the next EU Gender Equality Strategy foreseen in the work priorities of the new European Commission. Our members will help us collect examples and testimonies of the specific challenges faced by older women. This grass-roots evidence will inform the second edition of the AGE Barometer – our annual assessment of socio-economic realities of older persons and their impact on the respect of their fundamental human rights. In 2020, the AGE Barometer will focus on anti-discrimination, social inclusion, health and prevention, disability, autonomy and inclusion, long-term care; and violence and abuse. Findings and recommendations from AGE Barometer will support our work on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and build synergies with the Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals. Eighteen out of the twenty Pillar’s principles and rights are relevant to older persons. Our advocacy action in this area will target Commissioner Nicolas Schmit responsible for Jobs and Social Rights. Our efforts to ensure that the implementation of the Pillar adequately addresses older people’s realities should also inform the structural reforms that the EU and member states will pursue in 2020 as part of the European Semester process, under the guidance of EU Executive Vice President, Valdis Dombrovskis responsible for an EU Economy that works for people.
In our work beyond the European Union, we will further engage in ongoing discussions on the promotion of human rights in old age at United Nations level (Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing), within the World Health Organisation (Decade of Healthy Ageing), and in the Council of Europe (Revised Social Charter, Resolution on Older Persons Rights).
With our parallel involvement at EU, United Nations and Council of Europe levels, we want to build on the existing synergies between relevant debates, policy frameworks and actions on human rights, socio-economic reforms or technological transition.
Concerned by the potential impact of Brexit on the rights of older EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, we will further raise awareness of older persons, notably on the portability of their social rights with regards to employment, unemployment benefit, pension, disability allowance, health or long-term care.
Looking from a broader perspective, 2020 will be for AGE a timely moment to reflect with other generations on the climate change. The latter probably impacted the world most in 2019. Around the globe, many older citizens stood side by side with younger generations to express their mutual concern for the planet. We all want a sustainable future to live and age in the world where human rights are the fundamental principles on which social, economic and environmental perspectives are built. In the upcoming months, AGE and our members will join younger generations and their representatives to discuss how to ensure that economic growth, green transition and social justice are compatible and mutually reinforcing. With the Commission’s proposal for the European Green Deal, AGE will scrutinize whether the responses of national governments and EU institutions to economic, social and environmental challenges enhance our equal rights to live in dignity, contribute and participate in a society designed for all.
We hope that 2020 will ultimately bring coherence between all relevant policies to respond positively to Europe’s demographic change and democratic deficit, while addressing the urgency to act for the planet in the interest of all current and future generations.
As we can see, this new year is shaping up to be full of new opportunities to make the best of Europe’s ageing population. Let’s wish for all of us a prosperous and happy New Year!
by Maciej Kucharczyk