Towards a UN convention on the rights of older people

Ageism, discrimination and denial of rights in older age continue to be tolerated across the world...

Older people attending the Open-ended working group on ageing in 2015 (c) HelpAge International

(c) HelpAge International

Older people attending the Open-ended Working Group on ageing in 2015

Download our new report Entitled to the same rights in which older women speak up about their rights.

We need a convention on the rights of older people

Existing human rights mechanisms fail to adequately protect and promote the rights of older peopleWe believe that a single instrument, a new international convention on the rights of older people, is the most effective way to make sure that all people enjoy their human rights in older age, and on an equal basis with others.

We need a convention to:

  • Establish legal standards that challenge and replace stigmatising and dehumanising ageist attitudes and behaviour
  • Clarify how human rights apply in older age
  • Ensure states understand their human rights obligations to us in our older age
  • Better understand and assert our rights in our older age
  • Improve accountability of states for their human rights obligations towards us in older age
  • Provide a framework for policy and decision making.

A convention must:

  • Provide a comprehensive and systematic framework for the protection and promotion of all our human rights in older age
  • Prohibit all forms of discrimination in older age in every aspect of our lives
  • Articulate how each human right specifically applies to us in older age
  • Provide for a strong implementation, monitoring and accountability system.

The UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing

The UN established the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) in 2010. Its purpose is to strengthen the protection of older people's rights by reviewing how existing instruments address older people's rights, identify gaps in protection, and explore the feasibility of new instruments.

HelpAge and other civil society organisations actively engage with this process. Age Demands Action activists and our partner organisations call on their governments to support a convention and participate constructively in the process. We support older people to take part in the OEWG and we submit evidence from our programmes around the world to demonstrate why their rights need protecting.

Progress towards a convention

To date, the OEWG has clearly established that there are gaps in the international human rights framework with regard to older people's rights. Support for a new convention is growing among member states from every region of the world.

National human rights institutions were granted participation rights in the OEWG for the first time at its seventh session in December 2016. The OEWG also decided to focus its discussions on what the content of a new instrument might be before deciding what type of instrument would be most suitable.

The eighth OEWG took place in New York in July 2017 and discussed the rights to non-discrimination and equality, and to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect. HelpAge consulted older women across 19 countries on these two rights in order to ensure the discussion at the OEWG was informed by the lived experience of older people themselves. Read what they said in our report Entitled to the same rights. Two ADA activists and five network members attended the session, and eight netwrok members submitted evidence to a written consultation.

The ninth OEWG will take place in 2018. It will look at the content of the rights to non-discrimination and equality, and to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect in more detail. It will also discuss new topics: autonomy and independence, long-term care and palliative care. HelpAge is consulting with older people to find out their experience of rights in these areas. 

How you can support older people

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Ngesaye (10 February 2017)

    I am very passionate with elderly people and its has been my dream from childhood to become a care giver to the old in my community and country at large. I carried out a research on the social situation of the elderly in my community in which I was able to talk with of them one on one,then I discovered that the are greatly discriminated upon. Ageism and poor health is the main problem of most elderly in Cameroon.I love the elderly, I will study harder to obtain the necessary skills and give them the best.

  • Dr.Nassir Jamal (12 December 2016)

    Certainly ,let us re-energize and activate the Campaign for the Rights of the aged in Kenya in 2017.Transparency must be injected in the Goverment of Kenya District Officers and Location Chiefs in distribution of public Funds for the aged.They are frustrating the Kenya Government efforts by lack of clarity on selection criteria and non-dissemination of info.Many a times informing recipients a day or two before deadlines.Keeping in mind that more often than not the aged have to request Physical and financial support for transportation to the paying centers.HelpAge International and your Kenya offices,kindly accept our Gratitudes for your good work and the particularly the former for keeping us informed with your Newsletters and downloadble materials.

  • Vijay Naraidoo of DIS-MOI Mauritius (10 December 2016)

    It is time we had a convention for the rights of older people. We, in Mauritius, are campaigning in favour of this convention at the level of the deciders, civil society and senior citizens associations. We can better defend our rights with this instrument.

  • NARAIDOO Vijay of DIS MOI, Mauritius (08 December 2016)

    We don't need to be convinced. It is time we realised that a new Convention for the Rights of Older People is opportune. We sincerely hope the Dec.2016 OWEG will clear the way for this to happen. We tend to say such a Convention is long overdue.

  • Rev. Peter Okyere (16 June 2016)

    My Organization would like to participate the OEWGA 2016.
    Kindly give me the details. I believe strongly, with our participation, we would be equipped with more ideas and experience, as we would have the opportunity of meeting experts at the conference to advance in our advocacy in support of the rights of older persons in Ghana.

  • Rev. Peter Okyere (07 July 2015)

    First of all, I would to like to recommend the UN and all organizations that are fighting hard to strengthen the rights of older persons. One thing I want to suggest is,that the UN funds such organizations to widen the scope of our advocacy just as women, children and health programmes are funded.

  • ashbar jadoon (03 July 2015)

    un should clerify the rules that old people are not discriminated due to age ,because they have vast experienced gain through their practical life,and now they deserve to cash it

  • Brendan Birth (02 July 2015)

    As the Sustainable Development Goals have been up for discussion this year, it is important to remember that truly sustainable development should involve everyone, including older persons. I hope that a convention on the rights of older people can be a step in including older persons within the framework of sustainable development.

  • Vedrana Spajic-Vrkas (06 March 2015)

    The UN conventions have changed our world. The most important ones were written by a generation of visionary and brave individuals. The best way to thank them is to continue their work by supporting a convention which will set up the universal standards for the protection of dignity of the elderly.

  • Norma Tinambacan (03 March 2015)

    A convention on the Rights of Older People is a must to know the basic facts on exploring the civil rights, human rights and solidarity rights of the ageing population

  • tafadzwa rufaro gutu (03 November 2014)

    i totally support the establishment of a convention on the rights of the elderly. this special group of people need protection in all areas. they are left to suffer because the community and government are not properly taking care of them. even if policies are put in place, much force is needed to push for the implementation of these policies on all levels. even our local public transport operators must be held accountable for violating the rights of the elderly

  • abiola yussuff (15 September 2014)

    Any gathering in whatever name it is called that would guarantee the social upliftment of the elderly is highly supported by me especially having Africa as a basic consideration

  • Momom A. Bainda (12 June 2014)

    We the Executives and members of the National old folks of Liberia will love to form part of the campaigners and work to sign the petition to support the convention on older people rights

  • Elisabete Martins Costa (14 January 2014)

    Faço parte de uma Associação que apoia os mais velhos isolados e/ou dependentes e precisamos de apoio de organizações internacionais porque em Portugal a situação está a ficar muito complicada para os mais velhos. Queremos estar articulados

  • andarg (30 December 2013)

    it shoud be urrgent b/c currently most elder persons are helpless no food,shelter as wellas tehir helth are not adequatly protected so the inernational community shoud adopt aconvention

  • Denis Tanti (19 December 2013)

    In Malta, with the blessing of the European Union, a person is obliged by law to retire from work on reaching a specific chronological age arbitrarily decided upon by the state, independently of whether he still possesses the necessary physical and mental functional fitness level to continue performing his particular work.

  • Mathew Kawogo (06 December 2013)

    Towards ageing is my destination...we don't fight for the rights of older people but we demand accountability and we need to track this daily, weekly, monthly, every time! No sleeping until its done... Take care

  • Irene Gichora (10 October 2013)

    Grey hair is no longer considered a sign of wisdom and respect in many communities. In some parts of the coast province in Kenya,these old people are hunted down and killed for being suspected of practicing witchcraft.the Govt. should have a policy for the protection of old people since they are increasingly being discriminated against and their lives endangered.

  • Chhatra Pradhan (10 October 2013)

    We must make our needs and demands known to the bublic and the government to take notice.

  • TOM ONGWAE (30 August 2013)

    Older people are our parents who keep us to grow as a young generation. It is therefore our turn to protect them as they grow old.

  • TIAPPY YOUWO Marthe Lea (22 August 2013)

    La personne âgée est très vulnérable chez nous au Cameroun en milieu rural l’accès aux soins, les difficultés nées du délitement du lien intergénérationnel, l'absence de lois régissant les conditions de la personne âgée.

  • Ayomiire George S. (02 August 2013)

    I support the rights of elder people, being an elder myself. I recommend that the elderly be regarded as human beings, be given their rightful place in society and regarded as contributors of the wellbeing of humanity in the world each one basing in his/her country of abode. Elderly need to be supported at their old age as much as they supported the youth at their tender age; after all they are the custodians of history and other hidden matters of the world's living, they need to inform the youth, how to live a full life gain their full potential. Without the elderly, the world is doomed to go asray because the elderly have to advise and teach the way of life to the youth.

  • Joseph Vijay Panicker (24 July 2013)

    My whole hearted support for the Alliance.I wish to be there in person.

  • Monja Minsi (12 June 2013)

    Older People are vulnerable too, they shouldn't be discriminated against because of age.Their rights should be openly recognized.
    Uganda Reach the Aged Association

  • BANYWESIZE BAHIZIRE WILBRORD (31 May 2013)

    Que faire pour participer à cette réunion du mois d' Aout 2013,nous avons aussi de personnes agées non éventorier dans notre pays,l'expérience des autres peut nous servir de modèle.Je vous supplie si vous pouvez prendre ma requete en considération.

  • THOKO MOLEFE (04 April 2013)

    Human rights are older people's rights too

  • Barnabas Chinaedu Diala (23 November 2012)

    There is really an urgent need for the enactment of a treaty that would help ensure the basic fundamental human rights of older persons,considering the level of routine violations these vulnerable group encounter especially in developing nations.

  • Jennifer (18 August 2012)

    Urgent attention to the elderly peoples rights.They need a voice.Donate a wall for us to sign a petition.

  • Sailesh Mishra (01 August 2012)

    Hi Iam attending OEWG on behalf of Silver Inning Foundation , India . Pls let me know how and whom we can ask govt to send their representative for this prog.

  • Navdha (10 April 2012)

    Hi Mizanur,
    Thanks for writing in. Please contact our Bangladesh for more information on how you can support our work and older people. Email: cdir@helpagebd.org Phone: +88 02 9870103, 9870253
    Thanks,Navdha.

  • Mizanur (10 April 2012)

    I am bangladeshi. Managing director of Monirampur Agro firm Limited. I wants to support older peoples by old home. Please help me.

  • Mizanur (10 April 2012)

    I wants to support older peoples by old home. please help me.

  • METANG PAULETTE (18 March 2012)

    I attended the second session of the open ended working group on ageing last august in New york (UN). I thoroughly support a UN convention. In my country Cameroon, ageing issues are sligthly a priority for the government. But we related NGOs LOBBY OUR Government so that they consider this issue as a priority;

  • Maria da Conceicao Lourence (23 January 2012)

    I really support the idea of a convention for older persons, governments especially in my country Namibia have not put the agenda on ageing on their priority list,and there is a need for NGO's and institutions to rally and lobby for this convention.

  • Md.Azizul Haque (21 December 2011)

    Dementia fighting Together.

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Striking facts

  • Ageism, discrimination and denial of rights in older age is rarely addressed within the instruments or the practice of the current international human rights system.

  • Discrimination on the basis of age is only explicitly prohibited in one of the international human rights treaties, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW, 1990).

  • The Universal Periodic Review process referred to older people in only 31 out of 21,353 recommendations made during the first round of reviews from 2008-2012, and where older people were mentioned, it was often within a long list of other vulnerable groups.

Source: Word searches and analysis were undertaken on the database of UPR-info (Accessed July 2012)

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