The Americas lead the way with new convention to protect and promote older people's rights


By Beth Howgate

The Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons, the first regional instrument of its kind in the world, will promote, protect and ensure the recognition and full enjoyment of all human rights of older people.

Older activists in Latin America campaigning. Older activists in Latin America campaigning. (c) HelpAge International

A breakthrough moment

"This is a breakthrough in the field of human rights of older people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our continent becomes the first region in the world to make a binding treaty for the inclusion and recognition of human rights of older people," said Joost Martens, HelpAge International's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

For the Convention to enter into force at least two signatory countries must ratify it. The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay signed the Convention in Washington DC on 15 June. This represents a step forward in recognising the importance of older people's human rights.

"This is a tremendous commitment from the Organization of American States to advance the long-awaited dreams and hopes of older people.

"Population ageing must be confronted with realism, and with public policies that are implemented with public participation," said Ramon Aguilar from Chile and a member of the Executive Secretariat of the Red Continental, the Latin American Network of Older Persons.

Open-ended Working Group on Ageing

The approval of the Convention by the Inter-American region comes four weeks ahead of the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing meeting in July in New York.

It is at this meeting that the possibility of a new international UN convention on the rights of older people will be discussed.

"The approval of this regional Convention strengthens the case for a new international UN convention on the rights of older people so that all of us, no matter where we live, enjoy the same protection of our human rights in older age," said Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Policy Adviser at HelpAge International.

HelpAge will be attending the Open-ended Working Group, along with four older people, to ensure the focus of Member States remains on human rights and a new international convention.

This step forward by the Inter-American region will now bolster this.

A rapidly ageing region

People aged 60 or older in the Americas represent 14% of the hemisphere's population, or over 135 million.

By 2030, nearly two in five people will be 60 or older, and in total there will be more than 215 million older people in the Americas.

"States across the Inter-American region have shown their commitment to addressing ageism, discrimination and denial of human rights in older age, recognising that legally binding human rights standards are necessary to do this," said Sleap.

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