By Bridget Sleap
In a landmark decision in Geneva today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that creates the new position of independent expert on the human rights of older people.
The resolution was adopted by consensus by the Member States that make up the Human Rights Council.
Raising awareness of older people's issues
The new position is initially for three years. Its mandate includes assessing good practice and gaps in how existing human rights law is being implemented in terms of older people's rights.
It also includes raising awareness of the challenges older people face in relation to their rights, ensuring that older people get information about their rights and working closely with national governments and other parts of the UN, including the Open-ended Working Group On Ageing (OEWGA). This is the UN working group currently discussing proposals for a new international legal instrument on older people's rights.
"This is a very significant decision by Member States," says Bridget Sleap, senior rights policy adviser at HelpAge.
"Member States still remain divided about the need for a new convention on older people's human rights but by creating this new independent expert, they are acknowledging that discrimination on the basis of old age and older people's rights need much greater attention within the international human rights system and at the national level.
"A new independent expert will deepen our understanding of the human rights challenges that people face in old age and how these rights can be better protected."
In a separate resolution, older people's rights were also chosen as the subject of the 2014 Social Forum in Geneva.