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.