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Blog Action Day 2013: Older people's human rights

16 Oct 2013

Older people campaign for their human rights as part of our Age Demands Action campaign. (c) HelpAge InternationalBlog Action Day happens annually and aims to unite the world's bloggers by posting about the same issue, on the same day. This in turn triggers a positive global discussion around an important issue.

It has, since its inception in 2007, covered issues such as water, food and climate change. Having been a part of Blog Action Day for the last few years, we were particularly excited to hear that the theme for 2013 was human rights. 

Indeed, working at HelpAge International, an organisation that fights for the rights of older people around the world, this topic definitely strikes a chord. The world is ageing and age discrimination is rife. Unprecedented demographic ageing also means that the number of people who may experience age discrimination and violation of their rights in old age is likely to increase.

Yet, existing human rights mechanisms do not adequately protect the rights of older women and men. Older people are also discriminated against for a number of reasons other than age. These include their sex, ethnic origin, where they live, disability, poverty, sexuality or level of literacy.

Older people's rights not protected

This is what we're striving to change. We're one of a growing group of NGOs, academics, lawyers, UN Member States and individuals calling for a new convention on the rights of older people to ensure older people's rights are properly protected. Older people have specific requirements which are necessary to guarantee their rights. However, existing human rights instruments do not adequately articulate what they are. Neither do they clarify governments' obligations to protect older people's rights.

As a result, attention to older people's rights by human rights monitoring mechanisms, governments, the human rights community and civil society has been completely inadequate and older people's rights are not being sufficiently protected.

Our work to ensure these issues are addressed involves a variety of tactics including submitting evidence to various bodies and facilitating older people's participation in the processes that affect them. A huge recent success happened last month when the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that creates the new position of independent expert on the human rights of older people.

This step acknowledges that discrimination on the basis of old age and older people's rights need much greater attention within the international human rights system and at the national level.

Age Demands Action

Another way in which older people are actively involved in fighting for their rights is through our Age Demands Action (ADA) campaign. ADA is a year-round global grassroots movement that culminates in a day of marches on 1 October - the UN International Day of Older Persons.

This 1 October marked the seventh year of the campaign and activists in 59 countries took part in its global success. From Albania to Zambia, older people called on their decision makers to take action on important issues such as healthcare and pensions. They also organised marches in the street, put on photo exhibitions and hosted workshops to raise awareness of the problems they face in old age.

Internationally, ADA is calling for a new UN convention on the rights of older people. Activists in South Korea for example collected a huge amount of petition signatures supporting this and, in Jamaica, campaigners called for more support of the Organisation for American States Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.

Get involved!

There are lots of ways we can all stand up for older people's rights worldwide. Join HelpAge and the Age Demands Action global movement now!

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Author profile

Sarah Marzouk
Country: UK
Job title: Digital Communications

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