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Older people’s rights attain greater recognition in EU external affairs

30 Jul 2015

Last week saw EU member states adopt the final EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-19, providing a framework through which to improve the impact of the EU's efforts to support democracy and mainstream human rights into its work around the world.

Getting ageing issues included

ADA for Rights roundtable meeting in Haiti (c) Frédéric Dupoux / HelpAge International

Crucially, the approved plan has a new dedicated action to "increase awareness of the human rights and specific needs of older persons, paying particular attention to age-based discrimination". In the previous plan, the rights of older people were completely absent.

"It is very encouraging that older people's rights are now being given specific attention in the EU's external affairs," said Ivo Vajgl, a Slovenian MEP and member of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"This is also a step forward in strengthening the coherence between the EU's internal and external policies in this area. The full implementation of this new commitment is crucial now and the European Parliament will be supporting and monitoring this closely."

The inclusion of older people's rights will serve as a helpful advocacy tool for our dialogue with EU policymakers in other EU external policy processes and the EU's contributions to international human rights fora. This includes, for example, the forthcoming EU Gender Action Plan and the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, which has the mandate to discuss the content of a new international convention on the rights of older people.

Championing social protection floors

The plan also makes explicit reference to social protection floors in its Economic, Social and Cultural Rights section, ensuring that basic income security for older people is firmly on the EU's external policy agenda.

It states that the EU will "promote and support the development and increased coverage of national social protection floors and gradual implementation of higher standards of social guarantees".

We worked with the European NGO network SOLIDAR and other partners in the Global Coalition on Social Protection Floors in May this year to advocate for this addition, sending an open letter proposing specific actions to include it in the action plan.

Using the plan to tackle discrimination towards older people

On top of these specific references, the new Action Plan also presents opportunities to integrate the rights of older people into other actions.

The efforts to step up the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action is a chance to focus greater attention on the rights of older women who are subjected to discrimination but neglected in implementation efforts.

Similarly, the proposed anti-discrimination toolkit can and should feature strong integration of age discrimination.

This is an important milestone for older people's rights in the EU's external action. We will work together with our network of affiliates across the EU to ensure these opportunities are fully maximised for the benefit of older people around the world.

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Ellen Graham
Job title: EU Policy Adviser

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.