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Support grows for a convention on the rights of older people

Graphic: Older man

A regional conference on the challenges facing older people has concluded with strong support for a new international convention.

A three-day regional conference on the challenges facing older people has concluded with a "very high level of consensus" on the need for a new international convention to protect their rights, said Australia's Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan.

Commissioner Ryan was one of a number of representatives from national human rights institutions in the region who attended the event, which also included participation from governments, UN agencies and leading non-governmental organisations in the Asia Pacific.

With populations rapidly ageing in many countries across the region, Commissioner Ryan said the contributions from such a diverse group of participants helped identify "huge gaps" in the provision of services for older people, especially around access to housing and health services.

"What we drew from these discussions was how a new convention would help close those gaps and ensure that the rights of older people receive the level of attention they require," she said.

In 2010, the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) was established by the United Nations General Assembly to examine the gaps in the current international human rights protection system and identify how best to address them.

A Convention on the Rights of Older Persons is one option being considered by the OEWG.

Commissioner Ryan said that the existing human rights treaties "all imply protection of older people but they don't specify protection of older people".

"The only way to get the focus on the specific needs of older people is to have a specific Convention," she said. "It's not about inventing new rights but drawing them out from existing commitments, framing them and attaching various monitoring and accountability mechanisms to make sure that things happen."

Currently, many developing countries have indicated their support for the development of such a convention. However, no developed country has currently pledged formal support.

"I think it is the responsibility of Australia to show solidarity with the countries in our region and exercise leadership on this issue," said Commissioner Ryan.

"I'm hoping to persuade our government to be the first developed country to give formal support to the development of a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons."

The report of the Workshop on the Social Integration and the Rights of Older Persons in the Asia-Pacific, held from 30 September – 2 October 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand, will be presented to the OEWG for its consideration.

The workshop was jointly organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), with the support of the APF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International.

Date: 20 October 2014

Image credits

  1. Older man - Stephan Rebernik, Flickr Creative Commons