UN adopts landmark resolution on older people's rights


Older women protesting for their rights in Durban, South Africa. Older people themselves will be able to contribute to the debate on how to best protect their rights. Photo: MUSA/HelpAge International

In New York last week, the Third Committee - one of the working committees of the UN General Assembly - adopted a landmark resolution on older people's rights.

In this resolution, the General Assembly decided to set up a working group to consider how to strengthen the protection of older people's rights. It will do this by looking at the adequacy of the existing international human rights framework, identifying any gaps and considering the possibility of new human rights instruments.

Forum to discuss and take action

"This is a very important development. Discussions around the idea of a new convention have been going on over the last couple of years and we know that opinions vary amongst UN Member States on how to best ensure the full protection of older people's rights.

"What this working group will do is provide Member States with a forum to discuss and take action on what is now widely recognised as an area of rights that demands much greater attention.

"Civil society will also be able to contribute, so older women and men themselves will also be able to have their voices heard in this debate", says Bridget Sleap, HelpAge's rights policy adviser.

"Millions of older people face unequal treatment"

Older women and men across the world experience discrimination and violation of their rights at a family, community and an institutional level based on age. Older women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination based on both age and gender.

As Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on 1 October 2010: "Millions of older persons face unequal treatment, isolation, chronic poverty, unemployment, violence and abuse, limited access to justice and lack of social and political mechanisms to ensure their participation."

This is happening at a time of unprecedented demographic ageing. As populations age the numbers of people facing age discrimination and denial of their rights is likely to increase.

The working group will meet for the first time in early 2011.

Download the Third Committee's resolution on older people's rights.

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Kolla Gangadhar (07 November 2014)

    Ageing Human Rights Protection Resolution of the United Nations is to Protect Rights of Ageing of World for that I thank Members States of United Nations.

  • KALLIRROI NIKOLI (08 April 2011)

    Older People's Rights signed and ratified by the Governments have to become our big MUST in our priorities.But not in a spirit of compassion But as an inclusion in the Ageing Mainstreaming and a major step for active participation in our global society

  • Ferdoushi Begum Geetaly (14 December 2010)

    It was our duty to ensure the older people’s right across the world but older people are going to establish their rights themselves through their strong claim under campaign and advocacy. Older can participate in every where of the society for their fellows and it proves that ‘Older people for the older people’. We are waiting for the historic step and desire to see the older are getting relief from the discrimination and violation CONGRATULATION FOR THE FANTASTIC RESOLUTION

  • Bridget Sleap (13 December 2010)

    You raise a very important point, Anita, about how critical it is that the views and opinions of older women and men themselves and the diverse range of civil society organisations that work with them are heard in debates around their rights.

    The UN Working Group (which is open to all UN member states) will discuss how civil society will be able to contribute to its ongoing work at its first meeting in early January. We don’t know the outcome of those discussions yet but we hope that member states will agree to as much civil society participation as possible.

    The UN can feel very remote to most people, both physically and in terms of impact on their everyday lives. Ensuring that the voices of older women and men are heard, and that older people are represented in debates about them, is central to the way HelpAge works and we will strive towards this in the case of this UN Working Group too.

  • Anita Kelles (13 December 2010)

    Pls strengthen the NGO attendance in any future plannng events so that small active NGOs - and not those in the government pocket - can also attend and contribute, in future.

    Anita Kelles
    Senior Activist

  • Conrad Gweru (10 December 2010)

    This is a milestone achievement for organisations working for the aged. Now we need to take it upon ourselves and ensure that from grass root level upwards, older persons are represented. Its high time older persons are recognised and respected at all levels.

  • Lipi Rahman (04 December 2010)


  • Elias A. Awe (01 December 2010)

    Congratulations to all Helpagers for this remarkable milestone in our history. Cheers!!!

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