Older people: Defenders of rights!


10 December is Human Rights Day. The theme this year is human rights defenders who work to end discrimination. Two Age Demands Action activists protest for their rights in Mozambique. In 2010, major steps have been taken towards protecting older people's rights at an international and national level. Photo: HelpAge International

Older women and men in 50 countries around the world spoke up to defend their rights as part of the Age Demands Action campaign in October this year.

Older human rights defenders make great gains

Some of their demands have already been translated into specific government actions and policy changes.

In Ghana, government approved the National Ageing Policy and accelerated registration of poorer older people over 65 for cash transfers.

In Tanzania, four political parties included universal pensions and free healthcare for older people in their manifestos. The Prime Minister also pledged commitment to free healthcare and a universal pension for older people.

In Bolivia, a draft law against abuse was presented by the Ministry of Equal Opportunities after hundreds of activists highlighted rights abuses against older people.

In Cambodia, the government is introducing a health equity fund to provide free healthcare for the poorest older people.

Read more success stories from Age Demands Action 2010.

International progress on older people's rights

2010 has also seen a number of significant developments towards better protection of older people's rights at international level.

Two UN Special Rapporteurs (independent experts who address specific areas of human rights) focused specifically on older people's rights.

In June, independent expert on human rights and extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, highlighted the critical role that non-contributory pensions play in realising older people's right to social security and reducing extreme poverty.

In October, the Human Rights Council tasked UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, to write his next report on older people's right to health.

UN High Commissioner supports older people's rights

On International Day of Older Persons (1 October), Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made a powerful statement about age discrimination and older people's rights.

This was the first statement of its kind from a High Commissioner. It signalled an important recognition that older people's rights have been neglected and demand greater attention.

Major steps to protect older women's rights

Later the same month, the Committee that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted a general recommendation on the protection of older women's rights.

The recommendation provides guidance to states on how to meet their obligations to protect older women's rights. It is also an important tool for civil society and others working on women's and older people's rights.

Towards a convention on the rights of older people?

Finally, in November, in a landmark decision, the UN General Assembly agreed to set up a working group to discuss how to better protect older people's rights. The group will examine existing human rights standards, identify any gaps and discuss the need for new mechanisms. 

"There is so much more to be done to ensure older women and men's rights are better protected both in law and, more importantly, in practice in their everyday lives," says Bridget Sleap, HelpAge's rights policy adviser.

"Nonetheless, some very important steps have been taken in 2010 towards this. It is now our responsibility to make sure that this momentum is maintained and that these significant developments are translated into positive action."

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  • Myong Juch (18 December 2010)

    Though we have been vigorously demonstareted our efforts promoting senior's rights, our society still lag to our expectation. We need to have international NGOs coperation working together for Korean senior's rights in this rapidly changing ageing environment.

  • KALLIRROI NIKOLI (17 December 2010)

    Creative and productive New Year! Congratulations for your initiatives. I totally agree with your efforts towards the establishments of the Human rights of Older People.
    But I would like to be more specific on Human Rights of Older People,because our main goal has to be their empowerment and their social inclusion in every aspect of our global society. So the implementation of their empowerment will give meaning and in our efforts for the establishment of their Rights.

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Our government leaders are listening to us. The Prime Minister has responded positively to almost all our demands.

Older Age Demands Action activist, Tanzania


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