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From Cherkassy to the United Nations

01 Mar 2012

As is easy as 123? - Petition countingAt that point on a Friday afternoon, I had never heard of Ternopol, nor was I familiar with Cherkassy and certainly not aware of Khmelnitsky.

That was until late last Friday afternoon. You see, there comes a point in the last hours of the working week, when you would rather not turn to another spread sheet or report. 

And so, I turned to the cabinet behind my desk and took out a good few kilos worth of paper and started counting. Written on the paper were the details of thousands of Ukrainian petitioners from across the vast country. 

"Ternopol", "Cherkassy" and "Khmelnitsky" were just some of the towns, villages and cities where petitioners lived. The Age Demands Action petition, which they added their name to, calls on their government to include older people in policy at home and internationally.

Collecting and collating these signatures was a huge operation, all coordinated by the brilliant Ukrainian organisation, Turbota pro Litnix v Ukraini, which translates as Age Concern Ukraine. In total, I counted 3,374 signatures from 15 cities across Ukraine and in a not atypical demonstration of intergenerational solidarity; the youngest petitioner was born in 1996 and the oldest in 1924.

A truly global petition

Older campaigners adding their voicesMore than 32,000 people in over 130 countries have now signed this same petition. Over 10,000 signatures were collected by a network of older people's associations in Haiti whilst employees from banks in Seoul, South Korea spent an afternoon collecting over 1,000 signatures from colleagues.

It's easy to ignore a number but what is less easy to dismiss is what that number represents.

In this case it represents a global voice, people of all ages and all demanding that older people wherever they are must be included in society as equal citizens with equal rights.

Attendance is vital

A personal story - action for millionsThe petition will be used to push for a UN convention on the rights of older people. A convention will help provide protection of older people's rights under international law.

Despite this, representatives of some UN member states are not participating in discussions that would advance the prospect of a convention.

The most important platform for these discussions is the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) at the United Nations. The next session of the OEWG will take place in August and it is critical that as many member states as possible attend the session.

In the past some representatives have not attended because they do not see ageing as a priority, they did not have the time to attend or in some cases because they were unaware that the talks were even happening.

As the next session of the OEWG approaches, HelpAge will be engaging with governments and their representatives at the United Nations. The key message will be that the session is happening, their attendance is vital and failure to attend will be extremely damaging for the prospects of a convention.

Add your voice and sign our petition.

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John McGeachy
Job title: Campaigns assistant

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