Learning from COVID-19 in strengthening older persons’ rights

AGE Platform Europe was recently recently invited in two webinars to discuss the rights of older persons in time of COVID-19. A further opportunity for us to point out some shortcomings brought to light by the pandemic and reforms that are needed to address them.

Online conversation on lessons for public policy and older persons from COVID-19

The Institute for Lifecourse and Society (NUI Galway) and The Global Network of UNESCO Chairs for Children, Youth, and Communities in collaboration with Penn State University have been organising a series of public virtual conversations to help us understand the on-going impact of COVID-19 and ways in which we can all help respond now and, in the future.

NUIGalway_webinar_2Jul20-Nena In the frame of this initiative a webinar on ‘Older People and Public Policy in the age of COVID-19’ was organised on 2nd July 2020, moderated by Professor Norah Keating, Global Social Issues on Ageing (IAGG). Nena Georgantzi, Policy Coordinator on Human Rights and Non-Discrimination participated in the discussion focusing on the implication of the pandemic on rights and representation. Alongside speakers from Helpage International, the Italian National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing, the , Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia, Nena discussed challenges for older people’s rights, how the pandemic exposed ageism entrenched in our societies, our laws and our systems and suggested that we need to make policy and legal reforms in the aftermath of COVID-19. Nena pointed out the opportunities and limits of international human rights laws, and more specifically the gaps between the legal commitments accepted by the states and their failure to fulfil them in practice during the pandemic, in particular when it comes to older persons.

“We currently lack a formal, clear baseline, a legal compass to be able to see this gap between our aspirations and our practices. We have currently no prohibition of age discrimination in international human rights law, not to the extent that we have such prohibition for discrimination on the basis of race, gender or disability. As a result we tend to accept it, to accept more exceptions, and to consider it less severe.”

Nena Georgantzi, Policy Coordinator on Human Rights and Non-Discrimination

Among the shortcomings brought to light by COVID-19, Nena mentioned the absence of obligation to consult older persons when we adopt policies that target them, when we take decisions about their lives, and the absence of obligation to provide alternatives to care institutions.

Lesson will have to be drawn to improve our legal frameworks in the future, also beyond the pandemic. Nena referred here to AGE joint call with other stakeholders for a United Nations Convention on the rights of older persons.

You may watch the playback of the webinar here (Nena’s speech starts at 35:00).

Online workshop on ‘Human Rights, Discrimination and the Unequal Impact of COVID-19 on Persons in Vulnerable Positions’

Nena Georgantzi also participated in an online workshop bringing together civil society organisations from Korea and Europe to discuss human rights and discrimination issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In her presentation Nena discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the rights of older persons and some lessons learned from the pandemic about the need to better protect our human rights when we are older. The interactive exchanged allowed NGOs active in Korea and the EU improve understanding about how COVID-19 has been experienced by different groups (ex. refugees, LGBTI, migrants) and in different context and to have a conversation on strategies to cope with COVID-19, to devise future strategies and legal solutions and to improve civil society participation in the response and the recovery.

You may access the presentations from the event here.

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