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Journey toward a Convention for the Rights of Older Persons

– Posted in: Lifelong Learning Positive Ageing
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Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It was a historical moment for humanity. It outlines the fundamental human rights under which we are universally protected. Since then population-specific conventions have been developed by working groups and adopted by countries around the world, such as: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979; Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989; and Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities in 2006.

Recognizing the globally impact of a rapidly ageing population and the unique needs of older persons, the United Nations General Assembly moved forward with:

In December 2010, the General Assembly made the resolution to form an Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. The work group is formed for the purpose of “strengthening the protection of the human rights of older persons by considering the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons and identifying possible gaps and how best to address them, including by considering, as appropriate, the feasibility of further instruments and measures, and requests the Secretary-General to provide all necessary support within existing resources for the duration of its mandate.”

Pass It On Network delegates (l to r) David Oludare Mark (Nigeria), Kathi Bailey (US), Margaret Young (Canada), and Himanshu Rath who has been an active member of the OEWGA since its inception in 2010.


Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing 2010 to 2018

  • The Working Group, comprising Member States initially, grew to include National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Societies over time.
  • In 2016, 14 Issues were identified as needing to be “better addressed by the international community in order to allow older persons to fully enjoy their human rights.”
  • In 2017, the Chair requested inclusion of normative content as inputs for the development of a possible international standard on the rights of the older people.
  • In 2018, the Pass It On Network under 2Young2Retire was accredited to be part of the Working Group.

Inter-session Activities by Member States, National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Societies, 2010 to 2018

The Tenth Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, April 2019

  • The Working Group became an official part of the United Nations calendar of conferences with sessions in April and language interpretation support.
  • Almost the same number of Civil Societies were accredited in 2019 as were in 2018.
  • Newly accredited Civil Societies include Pass It On Network’s very own – Family Ark Mission (Nigeria) and Agewell Foundations USA (sister organization of Agewell Foundation in India).
  • Overall participation grew with participation by Africa seeing the most increase.
  • Four Topics were discussed at the General Assembly and Side Events.
  • Pass It On Network submitted substantive input on Life Long Learning and Capacity Building.
  • Agewell Foundation, a member of Pass It On Network, was a panelist. ( Start at 52:40)
  • Pass It On Network made an intervention statement.(Start at 2:38:02) at the General Assembly on access to life long learning and a convention on the rights on the older persons.

NGO representatives at the 1Oth session of the UN’s Open Ended Working Group on Ageing in New York. Standing are two Pass It On Network liaisons, Andrew Kavala (left) from Malawi and David Oludare Mark from Nigeria.


Work Group Moving Forward:

  • Member States, National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Societies all agree that more needs to be done to protect and support rights of the older persons.
  • Perspectives on “how to” range from staying with existing human rights charter for purpose of policy development to creating a convention specific to human rights of the older person.
  • Most who were present at the session favored a convention, but objections were vocal from those who opposed.
  • A non-binding and non-controversial outcome document will be created for the Eleventh Session and the Chair will work with Member States on an inter-session input process.
  • Topics for the Eleventh Session are “the right to work and access to market” and “access to justice.”

Pass It On Network:

  • Our network, with its diverse experience and knowledge, offers great strength in the move forward
  • Existing laws are not adequate in promoting and protecting the rights of the older persons because they do not take a life course approach. Speakers cited gaps even in the UN Sustainable Development Goals where rights of women, children, indigenous groups, and the disabled were often referenced, with very little to no reference to the rights of older persons.
  • General sentiment on the Assembly floor is that contrary to the UN Sustainable Development Goal of “Leaving no one behind” by 2030, the older persons are “being left behind.”
  • 2019 marks the 50th year since Robert Butler first coined the term “Ageism” and we have made only a small stride forward according to a report recently completed and soon to be published by the World Health Organization.
  • For the Eleventh Session, we can give voice to the older persons and support them through topical substantive inputs and advance preparation of impactful intervention statements. Impactful statements need to include:
    • What is the inequality or discrimination against the older persons?
    • What policy or measures can be/have been developed to address the inequality or discrimination? How are the older persons involved in the development process?
    • What are the accountabilities and what are the avenues for seeking remedies when rights are violated?

Organized a helpful introductory workshop hosted by AARP before the opening of the 10th session.


The time is to act is now!

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