Older activists demand their rights at the UN


By Navdha Malhotra

This week, older activists involved in HelpAge's Age Demands Action campaign are standing up for older people's rights at the United Nations.

They will be speaking out at the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing session (OEWG) at the UN headquarters in New York. Teresa, an older activist for HelpAge, speaks out for older people's rights at the UN. Teresa, an older activist for HelpAge, speaks out for older people's rights at the UN. (c) Ina Voelcker/HelpAge International

Three older activists from the Philippines, Tanzania and the Czech Republic will speak on older people's rights.

Their trip is supported by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affiars (UNDESA), HelpAge International, our sister organisation Age UK and Alzheimer's Disease International.

Protecting older people's human rights

The Open Ended Working Group on Ageing was established in 2010 to try and better protect older people's human rights. It meets for the second time this week.

The meeting's agenda is to identify the gaps in protecting older people's rights in five core areas:

  • Discrimination in old age
  • Right to health
  • Right to social security
  • Violence against older people
  • Social exclusion

Older people will be a part of the debate

Representing older people from their respective countries, our three activists will share their personal experiences and speak on various panels.

Teresa Minja from Tanzania will speak on a panel on violence, Salve Basiano from the Philippines will discuss social protection and Oldrich Staneck from Czech Republic is speaking on a panel on social exclusion.

"That this discussion on older people's rights is happening at the UN is a major step forward in recognising older people as rights holders and not just recipients of welfare or charity. 

"And as rights holders, it is absolutely critical that older people themselves are able to participate in these discussions, are listened to and that their lived experiences inform any decisions or recommendations that are made," says Bridget Sleap, Rights Policy Adviser for HelpAge.

Right to accessible and appropriate healthcare

As well as being part of the panel discussions, we are organising a side event which focuses on "older people's right to health".

Major advances in health have led to greater longevity but older people are still denied their basic right to accessible and appropriate healthcare.

The event brings together older people from around the world to talk about their experiences. Our Age Demands Action leaders Teresa, Salve and Oldrich will interact with Dr John Beard, director of the Department of Ageing and the Life Course from the World Health Organization about the challenges and solutions to accessing healthcare.

Encouraging governments to participate

As founding members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, we are working with other NGOs to ensure that global civil society groups have a greater presence at the Open Ended Working Group.

Affiliates from our global network, for example, are encouraging their governments to participate in the OEWG. We are also supporting our affiliates to become part of the group so that they can input into its discussions and agenda.

What can I do to help?

You can show your support for older people's rights by joining the movement and signing the Age Demands Action petition.

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Bakhiet Obey (06 September 2011)

    Its observed that a although of the international efforts in protecting vulnerable groups by the international organizations, the most focus was on women and children, with the clear marginalization for the rights of the elderly, despite the legislations and international conferences that dealt with their subject and in reality in quite a few developing countries demonstrates that:
    - Marginalization at the level of participation in the political decision of their countries
    - Marginalization at the level of national laws which covered them as part of all citizens.
    - Marginalization of working-level labor union and private institutions, for example there are no elderly unions.
    - Marginalization with respect to discrimination on the basis of gender is not considered discrimination on the basis of sex in gender topics.
    - Non-inclusion in protection programs of peacekeepers, for example there is a unit for the protection of women and children in the UNAMID mission and there is no unit for the protection of the elderly.
    In addition to already indicated thanks to the International Organization of care for the elderly and the working group established by United Nations and organizations working in the same area.
    I think that what is Required as follows:
    Activation of the previous legislations and treaties of the United Nations and follow up their implementation by the States, especially on the protection of the elderly in situations of armed conflict.
    -The inclusion of programs to protect and support the elderly by the peace missions of the United Nations and to shed more light on the problems of the elderly by the United Nationís agencies.
    - Provide technical and financial support for organizations working in the field of aging.
    - Awareness-raising campaigns organized by international organizations and the United Nations in order to enrich the issues of aging on the international level.

  • Melva Croes (11 August 2011)

    Hope one day the Caribbean Elderly also will join this cause more actively.

  • Mostafizur Rahman (07 August 2011)

    Great initiative indeed! Time is to work all together for ensuring older people's rights.

  • Mathew (05 August 2011)

    Thank you HelpAge, thank you Mama Minja for shouldering and representing fellow senior citizens in Tanzania and globally.

  • John Chris (05 August 2011)

    The Aged like any other human beings need to be accorded their full fundamental rights and freedoms. They deserve better service delivery and sustainable interventions that can better their livelihoods. The Aged have struggled to lay the very firm foundation of development that the young today rides on to deny them their rights. The international legal framework should therefore be of fundamental importance to support the demands of the Aged. I fully support the demands of the Older persons.
    John Chris Owuya-Uganda, East Africa

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