Brussels, 19 August 2013
United Nations: Older persons demand UN and EU action to ensure full and equal enjoyment of their rights
12-15/08/13: During the fourth session of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Ageing which took place in New York, civil society organisations representing older people joined forces to highlight why they feel a new UN instrument is needed to ensure older people can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with other age groups.
While the existing human rights framework applies to everyone without age limits, older persons encounter significant barriers and protection gaps in the realisation of their human rights. This is one of the conclusions of the fourth session of the OEWG, which took place this week at the UN headquarters in New York. This UN forum was set up to strengthen the protection of the human rights of older persons by identifying possible gaps and how best to address them, including by considering the feasibility of further instruments and measures. The fourth session took place with a renewed mandate of the OEWG as approved by a UN General Assembly resolution, which asked the group to explore the main elements of an international instrument to protect the human rights of older people.
Member States have put forward a spectrum of views to address the existing deficit, ranging from the need for a new Convention on the rights of older persons as the preferred option of the Latin-American and Caribbean countries to the refusal to engage in any normative process by the EU, Switzerland, US and Canada. The proposal for a new legal instrument on the rights of older persons was also heavily supported by African states, which drafted an African Common Position “to advocate for, and support the elaboration of a UN Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons”. Argentina made a proposal for the establishment of a group of member states, which would take joint actions as a ‘Group of Friends of Older Persons’. For the first time, this session included an interactive dialogue with civil society, while many Member States have acknowledged in their statements the invaluable contributions of NGOs’ in this debate.
AGE Platform Europe (AGE) welcomes the active participation of UN delegations during the 4 days of the OEWG, which confirmed that ageing is not only a social policy but also a human rights issue. At the same time we regret that the EU’s position in the OEWG is not adequately informed by the views of senior citizens. So far, there is no transparency about how this position is shaped and there are no instances for older persons to be consulted. AGE has brought this to the attention of Vice-President Reding and Mr. Lambrinidis, in a letter asking for the establishment of a multi-stakeholder dialogue group on the rights of older persons.
“As a self-advocacy organisation and speaking in favour of further development of participatory democracy, we firmly believe that older persons should have a strong voice in all processes that affect them. We therefore support the concluding remarks of the Chair of the OEWG, which made reference to AGE’s proposal to include civil society and older persons themselves in national and regional delegations. The involvement of civil society will give a genuine added value to the discussions and will legitimise the whole process”, said Mr. Marjan Sedmak, President.
For AGE a UN legal instrument such as a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons is needed to fully understand how existing human rights apply to older people and can be effectively enforced as part of the UN system. Such an instrument would not only codify the rights of older persons in one single document – which is indeed an important tool to increase visibility of older people, guide policies and advocacy and raise public awareness – but it would also specify State obligations, improve accountability and broaden overall understanding of the rights of older persons as well as create societies and environments for all ages, where older people are able to contribute, prosper and enjoy their rights. Human rights violations cannot be adequately addressed as long as the rights of older persons remain optional.