Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons: IAGG joins the campaign to guarantee human rights for older adults world-wide. The United Nations was founded on the belief that all people have certain rights by virtue of being human. In 1948, it put forth this principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then additional rights have been spelled out for various sub-groups—children, women, migrants, victims of torture, and persons with disability, for example. For those specific groups, there are Conventions guaranteeing their human rights. Conventions are legally binding instruments requiring those nations that ratify them to enact, implement and monitor policies in their own countries to assure those rights.
For Older persons, there have been some significant international rights documents, most notably The United Nations Principles for Older Persons (1991) and the Madrid International Plan for Action on Ageing (MIPAA, 2002) now subject to its 3rd review and appraisal. While helping to put ageing on the International Agenda, neither of these documents has any legal force. In 2010, the UN General Assembly established an Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) for countries (member states) to “specifically examine how to better protect older people’s rights. The OEWGA has been meeting annually since then to review progress and gaps in specific rights areas, such as health, employment, education and lifelong learning, access to justice and more. While some member states believe MIPAA provides an adequate framework for rights protections, perhaps only in need of better implementation, other countries and most non-governmental ageing advocates believe that a Convention is needed to support rights movements in individual nations, especially economically poorer member states with a weaker rights structure in their own governments.
Working for a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons The Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP), of which IAGG is a founding member, was established in 2011 to “support and enhance civil society engagement with Member States and National Human Rights Institutions at national, regional and international levels around a convention on the rights of older persons”. GAROP, 350 world-wide members strong, coordinates advocacy strategy, including written and oral statements at the UN on rights issues as they come up for discussion. A convention, unlike prior documents, establishes older persons as Rights Holders, not only people in need. It serves as a tool for both empowerment and protection. It requires governments to "collect data, develop indicators, establish laws and policies and develop programmes that take into account the concerns of older persons”.
What We as IAGG members can do As researchers, we have the data that supports the advocacy of other groups. Singularly, or perhaps uniquely, we have data on the status of older persons’ rights in our respective countries; we can demonstrate the success of programs and laws that assure people’s rights and we have data that points to the gaps.
We can and should bring the findings of relevant research to the attention of our national governments and to our governments’ representatives at the United Nations.
We can join in the plea for our governments to support a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. Our research adds weight to the plea.
Gerontologists of our member associations are encouraged to share their findings and recommendations with their national offices that cover aging policy, National Human Rights Institutions and also to national departments that interact with the UN (often State Departments, or Departments of Foreign Affairs).
Send copies of statements and/or relevant articles to your UN team, through IAGG Secretary General Toni Antonucci (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will see that they are relayed to appropriate UN bodies.