Despite the cancellation of the full 11th session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG), members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP) are committed to ensuring that older persons are an integral part of the international discussions about their rights.
On Thursday 12th March, the UN announced that due to the ongoing risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 11th session of the OEWG would be reduced from its usual four-day format to a three-hour procedural meeting. All NGO registrations for the session have been cancelled. This procedural meeting was due to take place on 6th April with participation strictly limited to New York-based delegations only, but this has also now been postponed for a later date.
While this decision is a responsible one in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, there are concerns about the direct impact that curtailing the full session in this way will have on older person’s human rights.
Ken Bluestone, Chair of GAROP, said ‘The annual OEWG session is such a crucial opportunity for older persons to discuss their rights and the need for a new UN convention. Curtailing the 11th session in this way means that older persons will be unable to participate in discussions on their rights in the UN in New York for two years and progress made in previous sessions is lost. For this reason, GAROP members are calling on their governments to support the rescheduling of the full 11th session as soon as it is safe to do so.’
Moreover, the approval of the applications for 38 new NGO accreditations are not currently on the proposed agenda of the shorter procedural meeting. This will further limit the participation of some older persons and civil society organisations in this process. Despite these challenges and the ongoing threat of COVID-19, which carries particular risks for older persons, GAROP members remain determined to ensure that they are part of these discussions.
Paulette Metang, an older activist from the NGO, ACAMAGE, in Cameroon, said ‘The OEWG cannot progress meaningfully without the voices of older persons. We will continue to campaign passionately for our rights in our countries and demand our full participation in the work of the OEWG. We will mobilise and be ready to contribute to future sessions.’
Established in 2011, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP) was born out of the need to strengthen the rights and voice of older persons globally. Today, GAROP is a network of over 350 members worldwide, united in our work to strengthen and promote the rights of older persons. Our mission is to support and enhance civil society engagement with Member States and National Human Rights Institutions at national, regional and international levels around a UN convention on the rights of older persons.
Ellen Graham, GAROP Secretariat Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.