UN Secretary General calls for COVID-19 response that respects the rights and dignity of older people


Photo from UN website

“Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people”, stated UN Secretary General when launching an UN policy brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on older persons. UN Chief’s powerful statement echoes AGE’s message and is a tremendous achievement for older people’s organisations around the globe!

UN_SG_speech_UN_Policy_Brief_launch-May20 “Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries”, states the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, expressing his deep concern about the pandemic and its effects on our communities and societies.

A pandemic with multiple impacts

In addition to the much higher mortality rate for older persons, COVID-19 has much broader effects: health care denied for conditions unrelated to COVID-19; neglect and abuse in institutions and care facilities; an increase in poverty and unemployment; the dramatic impact on well-being and mental health; and the trauma of stigma and discrimination.

In order to address those concerns and challenges, and ensure that “older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else”, as UN Secretary-General asserts, the United Nations has published a Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on older persons, which provides analysis and recommendations split in 4 chapters:

  1. The impact on health, rights and long-term care services for older persons
  2. The effects of physical distancing and stigma
  3. Integrate a focus on older persons in the overall socio-economic and humanitarian responses to COVID-19
  4. Harness knowledge and data, share good practices, and expand participation by older people.


Graph from UN report

Call for a more inclusive & human-rights based post-pandemic world

Looking forward, the COVID-19 recovery is seen in the UN report as an opportunity to “set the stage for a more inclusive, equitable and age-friendly society, anchored in human rights and guided by the shared promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to Leave No One Behind”.

To achieve this, the UN chief recommends to build stronger legal frameworks at both national and international levels to protect the human rights of older persons“, and ensure that all social, economic and humanitarian responses take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions”.

Read the United Nations’ Policy brief

Read the UN Secretary General’s statement

Worldwide support

Several UN Member States have issued a statement in support of the UN Policy Brief, which has so far been signed by 140 states, including all EU countries and the European Union itself. The joint statement acknowledges the escalating ageism, neglect and discrimination affecting older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also recognizes the meaningful participation of older people in society and the importance to strengthen international and intergenerational solidarity during the crisis and recovery process.

Read their joint statement here (also in Spanish and French)

AGE logo At AGE, we endorse the UN Secretary-General’s statement, which is fully in line with our position on older persons’ rights and COVID-19, as you can read in our article.

We also warmly welcome the wide solidarity movement expressed by 140 countries worldwide. We believe that time has come to adopt a new United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons and turn this global commitment into tangible advancement for older persons’ rights.

Read our press release

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