Rights for older citizens

AgeWave Australia features our exclusive interview with Dr Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the IFA, on the progress toward a Convention on the rights for Older People.

Why do we need UN Convention on the Rights for Older People?

1.    Ageism and age discrimination are unacceptable
As the world experiences rapid population ageing, the pressures that result in age discrimination are likely to intensify; so does the imperative to address such discrimination.

2.     Human rights change people’s lives
Protecting older people’s rights will help older people to lead dignified, secure lives, as equal members of society. Exercising these rights enables older people to be treated with respect on an equal basis with younger people.

3.     Existing international and regional human rights laws do not sufficiently protect older people’s rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international rights conventions apply to all persons regardless of age. However, age is not listed explicitly as a reason why someone should not be discriminated against. There are a number of regional conventions that protect the rights of older people, but not systematically or comprehensively.

What is the process?
The process is long and complicated but an important step has already occurred in the establishment of the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) by resolution 65/182 on 21 December 2010 to consider the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons and identify possible gaps and how best to address them, including by considering, as appropriate, the feasibility of further instruments and measures. Two working sessions of the OEWG were convened (April and August 2011) attracted member states and civil society from all regions of the working.  A range of proposals were made by Member States including: the elaboration of a new international human rights convention on age as outlined below and the work continues, nationally, regionally and globally; the appointment of a Special Rapporteur with a specific age human rights; strengthening of the use and implementation of the existing international human rights standards and mechanisms; and enhanced governance, policies, coordination in the context of the 10 year review of the UN Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing scheduled to start in 2012.
Who is involved?
All levels of government, member states, civil society and every citizen interested in the social, cultural and economic environments of older people of this generation and future generations.  

What is the role of the IFA?
As an international, non-governmental organization, for nearly 40 years IFA’s basic objective has been to serve as an advocate for the enjoyment of all fundamental human rights and freedoms for all older persons, regardless of where they live around the globe.

As an international NGO, IFA enjoys General Consultative Status at the United Nations. We therefore proudly support the work of the United Nations in the areas of population aging and human rights. In fact in 1991, inspired by an IFA declaration, the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Principles for Older Persons (Resolution 37/51) covering the subjects of older persons and independence; older persons and participation in society; older persons and care; older persons and self-fulfillment; and older persons and dignity.
IFA is one of the nine founders of the social movement ‘Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People’ which is working to mobilise the energy and efforts of civil society at a national level through our members and their networks.
How can organisations and individuals contribute?
–       Encourage your Government to take part in the OEWG process
– Engage in dialogue with policy makers and leaders in your country about older people’s rights and the need for a convention
– Provide information on discrimination against older people and violations of their rights to government representatives in capital cities and to their UN Missions in New York
– Meet with government representatives to discuss issues that should be raised in the OEWG
– Spread the word! Older people and organisations that work with member states must make their voices heard

The IFA’s position in respect to the manner in which global rights of older people are achieved lies in the development of a new human rights instrument, vis-à-vis a Convention.  It does however respond positively to the proposal of a number of member states for a Special Rapporteur working in parallel to understanding how best to full protect the rights of all people globally rather than regional responses which in fact create fragmentation within and across countries.  
However in accepting the proposition of a Special Rapporteur, this cannot be a substitute for the work toward full protection of the rights of older people which we strongly believe lies in a new international human rights instrument in the name of a Convention.  
The IFA is committed to working in partnership with all UN agencies, member states, academia and our members to contribute legitimately and with a strong voice to assure the rights of older people are protected not adequately but fully and in a sustainable manner.  

How do the OEWGs work/build on to this?
The Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) is the forum for member states to discuss, exchange views, share best practice and be informed by expert panellists.  IFA, along with other accredited NGOs, is honoured to be an observer at the Second Working Session of the OEWG with the opportunity to provide interventions.  We regard this as a privileged position.   

Update on August NYC 2nd OEWG
Go to http://social.un.org/ageing-working-group/ 
Next steps
– Stay connected with the IFA (www.ifa-fiv.org) and other national and international NGOs who are working to develop a tool kit that assists in being strong advocates and a voice with governments.
–  Identify key ageing focal points in government and other decision making bodies with whom conversations and advocacy efforts must be focused
– Call, write and meet legislators and administrative officials to discuss specific rights-based issues of older people and to advocate for a convention

How do we stay informed of progress?

Through connections with the
– Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People

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