We need a convention on the rights of older people

We need a convention on the rights of older people

Ageism, discrimination and denial of rights in older age continue to be tolerated across the world…


Older people attending the Open-ended Working Group on ageing in 2015
 (c) HelpAge International

Existing human rights mechanisms fail to adequately protect and promote the rights of older people. We believe that a single instrument, a new international convention on the rights of older people, is the most effective way to make sure that all people enjoy their human rights in older age, and on an equal basis with others.

We need a convention to:

  • Establish legal standards that challenge and replace stigmatising and dehumanising ageist attitudes and behaviour
  • Clarify how human rights apply in older age
  • Ensure states understand their human rights obligations to us in our older age
  • Better understand and assert our rights in our older age
  • Improve accountability of states for their human rights obligations towards us in older age
  • Provide a framework for policy and decision making.

A convention must:

  • Provide a comprehensive and systematic framework for the protection and promotion of all our human rights in older age
  • Prohibit all forms of discrimination in older age in every aspect of our lives
  • Articulate how each human right specifically applies to us in older age
  • Provide for a strong implementation, monitoring and accountability system.

The UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing

The UN established the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) in 2010. Its purpose is to strengthen the protection of older people’s rights by reviewing how existing instruments address older people’s rights, identify gaps in protection, and explore the feasibility of new instruments.

HelpAge and other civil society organisations actively engage with this process. Age Demands Action activists and our partner organisations call on their governments to support a convention and participate constructively in the process. We support older people to take part in the OEWG and we submit evidence from our programmes around the world to demonstrate why their rights need protecting.

Progress towards a convention

To date, the OEWG has clearly established that there are gaps in the international human rights framework with regard to older people’s rights. Support for a new convention is growing among member states from every region of the world.

A number of meetings were held around the world in 2016 to discuss a new convention. These meetings between the annual OEWG sessions are essential to build support and deepen understanding of what the contents of a convention should be.

On 15 September, the Independent Expert on the rights of older persons released her report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report found that the non-binding Madrid International Action Plan on Ageing is insufficient in ensuring older people are protected from the unique human rights challenges they face.

In 2016, the Human Rights Council also tasked the Independent Expert with reporting to the OEWG on gaps in the protection of the rights of older people.

The seventh OEWG will take place in New York 12-15 December 2016, with an eighth session to be held in 2017.

How you can support older people

Please follow and like us: