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Ireland urged to back new treaty for older people

Published 14/12/2016


As negotiations on how best to protect the human rights of older people come to an end at the United Nations this week Age Action has published a new briefing paper, renewing its call for an international convention on the rights of older people.

Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people joins a growing global coalition of experts, rights organisations, ageing groups and a rising number of nations campaigning for a new convention.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “The human rights of older people are not being effectively protected. 

“Existing international human rights treaties have little to say on issues particular to older people like elder abuse, long-term residential care and ageism.

“It was the silence of human rights law on issues like child protection and adoption that highlighted the need for a Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has enhanced the protections of vulnerable children right around the world.

“That same silence applies to issues important to hundreds of millions of older people who are, in practice, excluded from human rights law.”

Older people attending the Open-ended Working Group on ageing in 2015 Credit HelpAge International
Older people attending the Open-ended Working Group on ageing in 2015. Credit HelpAge International

Older people ignored

Of almost 39,000 human rights recommendations to UN Member States in recent years only 113, 0.3 per cent, have referred to older people.

In September, the UN’s Independent Expert on the rights of older people found that existing international policy frameworks and national laws were failing to properly protect older people.

For the last six years the United Nations Open-ended Working Group on Ageing has been examining how the human rights of older people can be better protected but there is no consensus yet on the need for a new treaty.

Ireland has failed to support calls for a new convention, refusing to go beyond the common, neutral, EU position even as other EU Member States, like Slovenia, actively support a new convention.

Justin Moran continued: “Ireland has a proud track record of supporting human rights on the international stage but is currently refusing to break from the European Union’s position. 

“The existing human rights infrastructure is ignoring older people, not just in Ireland, but especially those in the global south who lack many of the protections enjoyed by older people elsewhere.

“Ireland has ratified human rights treaties that addressed the particular needs of children and women. The Government is currently working to ratify the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. 

“The same approach should be taken to the rights of older people, which all involved in these negotiations acknowledge are not properly protected.”