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Impressions from New York and the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing

30 Aug 2013

Civil society in developing countries need a convention to push their governments to follow more developed countries to protect the rights of older people. (c) HelpAge GhanaThis is a guest post from Mateja Kozuh Novak, the President of the Slovene Federation of Pensioners' Associations.

I was very glad and honoured when I received the invitation from HelpAge to join their delegation to on the fourth session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) in New York.

As part of my work on the Age Demands Action campaign, I have (with my colleagues for the Slovene Federation of Pensioners' Associations), visited all the top politicians in my country to discuss the problems older people in Slovenia face and to ask them for support at national and international levels.

While the Ministry responsible for older people's issues gave a very mild and cautious answer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Karel Erjavec, leader of Slovene Pensioners' Party, was very eager to work together. He promised to fight for a UN convention on the rights of older people and sent two diplomats to the OEWGA meeting where this was to be discussed.

Proud to be part of the HelpAge group

In New York, I met a very nice and capable group of young professionals from HelpAge who helped me through UN procedures throughout the meeting. I was proud to be part of the HelpAge group as members of the OEWGA mentioned on several occasions how much HelpAge experts have done for older people's rights.

I didn't expect so many countries to send their representatives to the meeting. On the other hand, I was surprised that from Europe, so few NGOs came. It became clear that developed countries (with few exceptions) are against the convention. They claimed that the same results can be achieved using tools that already exist. Even though they presented very good examples of well financed programmes, they did not say how many people in their countries had access to them.

Developing countries have a lot less money therefore their governments have other priorities. They did not take in account that civil society in developing countries need a convention to be able to push their governments to follow more developed countries to protect the rights of older people. It is hard to understand this as the number of older people grows every day.

Older people denied their rights

I think that leaving older people with nothing will be more expensive in the long run than giving them a chance to actively participate in the development of their country. As Professor Doron from Israel explained, it is all about social injustice. Older people are just one of the groups who are denied their basic human rights because of their specific situation.

However, all of us, as members of civil society, remain optimistic. This year in Slovenia, events concerning the human rights of older people are only one of the steps in our journey which, thanks to HelpAge, is much more successful than if we were alone.

As I said in our last meeting at the UN, it is 22 years since I first met experts from HelpAge. Since then, I have learned so much about how to fight for the rights of older people, used many of your suggestions and am happy to be able to transfer all I have learned to my successors in Slovenia. Let me express once again my gratitude to the team who invited me to the OEWGA.

Read more about our work at the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing.

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Mateja Kozuh Novak
Country: Slovenia
Job title: Slovene Federation of Pensioners’ Association

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