An Open Letter to the United Nations General Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing for the Purpose of Strengthening the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons (OEWGA)

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As human rights advocates from different backgrounds and regions of the world, we want a world where we can all age with rights, dignity and respect. The OEWGA can help to make this vision a reality by fulfilling its mandate to consider proposals for an international legal instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons and to present to the UN General Assembly a proposal containing the main elements of such instrument.

Since its creation in 2010, the OEWGA has held 11 working sessions. Throughout these discussions, the OEWGA has seen a wealth of evidence confirming the glaring deficiencies in the international human rights system as it relates to the human rights of older persons. This material has been presented by older persons themselves, experts from the UN system, civil society organizations, academia, governments, and national human rights institutions, who are also calling for the adoption of a convention to address these shortcomings.

The study launched by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the 11th session confirms that the development of more specific norms and standards within a new dedicated international instrument is required to ensure that no older person, regardless of circumstance, is left behind.

Despite this evidence in support of a UN convention and the further impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OEWGA has made little concrete progress towards identifying the elements of a possible new instrument and has not yet fulfilled its mandate in this regard. While there are many Member States which have actively supported a convention, the lack of consensus has prevented clear outcomes from the OEWGA.

While we recognize the importance of consensus and the need to continue to build this in the OEWGA, we also note that 146 States formally supported the Secretary General’s Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on older persons and committed to fully promoting and respecting the dignity and rights of older persons. This is a strong foundation from which the OEWGA must now seek to move forward.

A new UN convention would explicitly and unambiguously recognize older persons as rights holders and strengthen our understanding of human rights in older age. It would provide valuable guidance for governments and others to ensure that age discrimination is prohibited in the law, services uphold the dignity of older persons, and attitudes and behaviors towards older persons are respectful.

The OEWGA Bureau, chaired by the Permanent Mission of Argentina since the OEWGA’s first session, is in a pivotal position to drive progress in this work. Thus, we call on the Bureau to take concrete steps to progress the work of the OEWGA in the inter-sessional period between the 11th and 12th sessions of OEWGA and we call on Member States to support the Bureau in taking those steps.

Recommendations for next steps

We support the proposal made by Argentina in the 11th session to establish an intersessional group to advance the work of the OEWGA. This group should be composed of experts from member states, civil society organizations, and national human rights institutions, with the involvement of the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons as well as other relevant experts among the UN human rights mechanisms and special procedures mandate holders. This group should be tasked to commence the drafting of the main normative elements of an international legal instrument during the inter-sessional period.

We believe that the OEWGA will greatly benefit from commencing the drafting of a proposed binding instrument without delay in an open and inclusive platform that places the participation of older persons, their knowledge, expertise and experiences at the centre of discussions.

The 12th session of OEWGA presents the Bureau with opportunities to take concrete steps. To advance a critical discussion of the adequacy of the normative framework of the international human rights system and its implementation mechanisms for the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons, the Bureau should include in the agenda of the 12th session a substantive discussion of the OHCHR’s analytical paper. Also, in moving forward, the Bureau should present a proposal containing a program and the modalities for the drafting of a new instrument to start no later than six months after 12th session of OEWGA.

We call on the Bureau to take up these recommendations and urge Member States, particularly the members of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, to engage actively in with the process to bring about these outcomes.

It has been a decade since the OEWGA commenced its work. The need to fulfill the OEWGA’s mandate has never been more urgent if we want to build the just and equal world we need for older persons today and for all generations to come.

We submit this open letter to the Bureau and to Member States of the UN as an expression of our steadfast commitment to assist in the fulfillment of OEWGA’s mandate. In this inter-sessional period leading to the 12th session of OEWGA, we will continue to seek and build opportunities for formal and informal spaces for constructive discourse, including following up on these recommendations and call to action.


(by country or country of HQ)


  1. ASAG-Albanian Society for All Ages


  1. INPEA – Argentina


  1. Advocare Incorporated
  2. Capacity Australia
  3. Community Legal Centres Australia
  4. Elder Abuse Action Australia
  5. International Longevity Centre Australia
  6. LGBTIQ+ Health Australia
  7. National Older Women’s Network Inc.
  8. NSW Ministerial Advisory Council on Ageing
  9. Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN)
  10. Seniors Rights Service
  11. The Senior Agenda Inc.


  1. HelpAge International
  2. Resource Integration Center RIC
  3. Sir William Beveridge Foundation
  4. UTTHAN (Unprivileged To The Humanitarian Action Need)
  5. Young Power in Social Action (YPSA)


  1. Barbados Association of Retired Persons


  1. Public Union of Belarusian pensioners “Nasha Pakalenne”


  1. AGE Platform Europe
  2. Entr’âges
  3. S-Plus
  4. Unia (Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities)
  5. Vlaamse Ouderenraad vzw


  1. HelpAge


  1. Instituto Qualivida


  2. Ageing and Health Cameroon Association
  3. Association pour la diffusion des droits humains aux peuples autochtones (Humanitarian Law Agency)
  4. Nehelp Cameroon


  1. Active Aging Canada
  2. Age Knowble
  3. Business Launch Solutions
  4. Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry
  5. Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health
  6. Canadian Geriatrics Society
  7. Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA)
  8. Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of British Columbia FAO
  9. FAO
  10. Fountain of Health Association
  11. Grandmothers Advocacy Network
  12. Health Promotion Canada
  13. Institute of ethno-gerontology-Toronto, Canada
  15. International Longevity Centre Canada
  16. LoveSong Housing
  17. National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE)
  18. Ontario Association of Councils on Ageing
  19. Pass It On Network


  1. Association Amitié Seniors et Jeunes

Costa Rica

  1. AGECO

Czech Republic


Dominican Republic

  1. ILC-DR


  1. Svenska pensionärsförbundet


  1. FIAPA
  2. OLD’UP
  3. International Inner Wheel
  4. International Longevity Center- France ( ILC-France)
  5. 2Y2R Too Young to Retire – Pass It On Network


  1. The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia


  1. BAGSO – Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Seniorenorganisationen
  2. German Institute for Human Rights
  3. HelpAge Deutschland


  2. 50plus Hellas


  1. U3A Reykjavík


  1. Ashakiran JHC Hospital
  2. Association for Social Solidarity and Empowerment Training Trust
  3. DadiDada Foundation
  4. Federation of senior citizens’ associations of Tamilnadu
  6. Gharonda
  7. Govt KNM Arts and Science College, Kanjiramkulam Trivandrum
  9. Indian Society of U3As
  10. International Association for Religious Freedom Co-ordination Council for South Asia
  11. International Longevity Centre India
  12. JSS Medical College and Hospital, JSSAHER, Mysore
  14. Society for Serving Seniors


  1. Wasit Health Organization


  1. ILC – Israel
  2. The Association of Law in the Service of the Elderly


  1. ANAP – Confartigianato
  2. Anziani e non solo soc. coop. soc.
  3. ATDAL OVER 40
  4. International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN)
  6. TAM telefono anziani maltrattati
  7. 50&Più


  1. Japan Support Center for Activity and Research for Older Persons


  1. Ageing Concern Foundation (ACF)


  1. Liberian Association of Retired Persons
  2. National Senior citizens Organization of Liberia
  3. National Old Folks of Liberia


  1. World Silambam Association (WSA)
  2. World Yoga Association
  3. Silambam Asia


  1. University of Malta


  1. Agalega Island Council
  2. Halley Movement Coalition
  3. Droits Humains Ocean Indien (Dis-Moi)
  4. Dis-Moi, Rodrigues


  1. Myanmar National Human Rights Commission


  1. Senior Citizens Welfare Association


  1. JNF50PLUS Foundation
  2. Older Women’s Network, the Netherlands
  3. Stichting Mission Lanka

New Zealand

  1. Fantsuam Foundation
  2. New Zealand Society of Diversional and Recreational Therapists Incorporated


  1. agenigeriafoundation
  2. Alternative Health care Initiative
  3. Azar Initiative Empowerment for the Less Privileged
  5. Sound Health Development Initiative(SHIN)
  6. Universal Peace and Violence Amelioration Centre


  1. Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE)
  2. Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines


  1. Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Poland
  2. ELELEOS Prawosławny Ośrodek Miłosierdzia
  3. Fundacja DOM
  4. Fundacja Ukryte Skrzydła
  5. Foundation Center for Initiatives for Society
  6. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
  7. KSP2050 Białystok
  8. Miejska Rada Seniorów w Sejnach
  9. Miejska Rada Seniorów w Sokółce
  10. Ogólnopolska Federacja Stowarzyszeń Uniwersytetów III Wieku
  11. Ośrodek Wspierania Organizacji Pozarządowych
  12. Podlaska Redakcja Seniora
  13. Polska 2050
  14. Polski Związek Emerytów Rencistów i Inwalidów w Białymstoku, Koło nr 15 w Choroszczy.
  15. Polski Związek Emerytów, Rencistów i Inwalidów Oddział Okręgowy w Białymstoku
  16. Rada Seniorów Miasta Augustowa
  17. Rada Seniorów w Dąbrowie Białostockiej
  18. Rada Seniorów Gminy Czarna Białostocka
  19. Rada Seniorów Gminy Podgórzyn
  20. Rada Seniorów Gminy Supraśl
  21. Rada Seniorów Reda
  22. Rada Seniorów przy Marszałku Województwa Podlaskiego
  23. Stowarzyszenie mali bracia Ubogich
  24. Stowarzyszenie Podlascy Seniorzy
  25. Stowarzyszenie Szukamy Polski
  26. Stowarzyszenie UTW w Augustowie
  27. Stowarzyszenie Uniwersytet Trzeciego Wieku w Sokółce
  28. Świętokrzyski Uniwersytet Trzeciego Wieku
  29. Towarzystwo Inicjatyw Twórczych „ę”
  30. UMK Toruń
  31. Warszawska Rada Seniorów
  32. WRZOS
  33. Wydział Nauk Politycznych i Studiów Międzynarodowych, Uniwersytet Warszawski
  34. Związek Tatarów Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej Oddział Bohoniki


  1. APRe!
  2. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psiquiatria e Saúde Mental (Secção de Psiquiatria Geriátrica)


  1. The Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia


  1. Slovak National Centre for Human Rights


  1. Primorsky region veteran Fund “Soldier”
  2. Regional Public Foundation Assistance for the Elderly Dobroe Delo




  1. Slovenian Federation of Pensioners’ Associations


  1. African Relief Development Initiative (ARDI)
  2. Somali HelpAge Association

South Africa

  1. International Longevity Centre – South Africa

South Korea

  1. HelpAge Korea


  1. Confederación Española de Organizaciones de Mayores (CEOMA)
  2. Fundacion 26 de Diciembre
  3. Grupo Servicios Sociales Integrados (Grupo SSI)
  4. HelpAge España


  1. Alzheimer Switzerland
  2. dream plan live it coaching
  3. FAAG – Fondation pour la formation des aînées et des aînées de Genève
  4. Association of Former International Civil Servants for Development
  5. NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva
  6. Union for International Cancer Control
  7. WPA Section of Old Age Psychiatry




  1. National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT)

Timor -Leste

  1. Provedor de Direitos Humanos e Justiça (Provedor for Human Rights and Justice)


  1. NGO: ADET


  1. Türkiye emekliler derneği


  1. Community Restoration Initiative Project


  1. F. Chebotarev Institute of Gerontology of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine

United Kingdom

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease International
  2. HelpAge International
  4. Soroptimist International GBI
  5. Soroptimist International
  6. Age International

United States of America

  1. AARP
  2. Active Aging Consortium Asia Pacific
  3. Alzheimer Association
  4. Assoc of Family and Consumer Sciences
  6. Community Networks for Aging in Place Alliance
  7. Dementia Alliance International
  8. Duluth Aging Support
  9. Encore Network
  10. Global Action on Aging
  11. Global Ageing Network, DBA International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing (IAHSA)
  12. Gray Panthers
  13. Human Rights Watch
  14. International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care
  15. International Association if Gerontology and Geriatrics
  16. International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
  17. International Society on Aging and Disease
  18. Long Term Care Community Coalition
  19. New Aspect Coaching
  20. PAHO/WHO Association of Former Staff
  21. Sisters of Charity Federation
  22. The Dayton Foundation Del Mar Encore Fellows Initiative UNANIMA International
  23. United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society
  24. United Nations Association – Orange County
  25. Wisdom of Age
  26. Word of Life International Inc


  1. Convite AC


  1. Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias In Zambia -ADDIZ
  2. Senior Citizens Association of Zambia
  3. Support To Older People-Zambia
  4. Zambian Center for Poverty Reduction and Research Limited


  1. HelpAge Zimbabwe
  2. Foundation Activus