Our work towards a convention on the rights of older people recently took an exciting turn with the adoption of a new resolution (A/HRC/RES/48/3) on 7th October 2021 by the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations. The resolution was adopted by consensus without any voting required. This is a significant step forward and a prime advocacy opportunity. Governments committed to consider and act on the resolution and we as civil society can play a key role in ensuring that this happens.
Why is this resolution important?
- This is the first ever substantive resolution of the HRC on the rights of older persons. Previous resolutions were procedural to appoint or renew the mandate of the UN Independent Expert. This is the first time that ageism and age discrimination have been negotiated and included in a HRC resolution.
- It provides strong agreed language that States and other stakeholders can refer to and draw upon when considering these issues in their future work on human rights.
- It is an important step forward for the profile of ageism and age-based discrimination in international discussions on human rights.
How can we use this in our advocacy and campaigning on older people’s human rights?
- Inform your government that civil society is following and engaging in all processes where the older people’s rights are being discussed. We expect governments to engage actively and constructively with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in full consultation with civil society, as they prepare the new report and organise the stakeholder meeting as requested in the Resolution (see section ‘What Does it Say?’ below for further information).
- Refer to the content of the resolution in your ongoing discussions about older people’s rights with your government, National Human Rights Institutions, private sector and other stakeholders in your country.
- Get the word out about this exciting development amongst our networks to raise awareness, raise more voices, and strengthen our collective advocacy!
- The call for written inputs to inform the development of the report has been issued by OHCHR with the deadline of 6 December. More information is available on our website here. Please consider making a submission (ECOSOC status is not necessary).
How can we get more involved in the work of the HRC?
- Learn more about how to get involved in the work of the HRC as an NGO here with a guide in all six official UN languages.
- You need to apply for UN ECOSOC status as an NGO to be accredited to participate in the HRC’s work and/or you can connect and work with NGOs that already have ECOSOC status.
FURTHER BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Where has the new Resolution come from?
- The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an intergovernmental body, an organ of the UN General Assembly, that meets in Geneva three times per year (three to four weeks each time) and is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. It plays an important role in strengthening the promotion and protection of older people’s rights.
- At the 48th HRC session that took place from 13th September to 8th October, the UN Independent Expert presented a report on ageism and age discrimination, which included a review of the ways existing legal and policy frameworks protect against age discrimination.
- During the same HRC session, Argentina, Brazil and Slovenia tabled a substantive resolution on the rights of older persons. The resolution focuses on ageism and age discrimination using the Independent Expert report as a basis.
- 65 Member States co-sponsored this resolution that was adopted by consensus on 7th October and is available here in all six UN languages.
What does it say?
- The resolution calls upon States to prohibit all forms of discrimination against older persons and to take measures against ageism and age-based discrimination. It calls upon all stakeholders to eliminate ageism and age discrimination in all its forms.
- It calls upon all stakeholders, including States, the entities of the UN system, civil society, national human rights institutions, and the private sector to adopt a human-rights based approach in all programmes, campaigns and activities relating to ageing and older persons.
- It asks the OHCHR to prepare a report on normative standards and obligations under international law in relation to the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons, to be submitted to the HRC at its 49th session in March 2022, and to make the report available in the six UN official languages and accessible formats.
- It also asks the OHCHR to convene a multi-stakeholder meeting, including older persons, to discuss the report and present the conclusions of the meeting to the HRC 51st session in September 2022.
What advocacy work contributed to the adoption of the Resolution?
- A Side Event held on 21st September co-organised by the NGO Committee on Ageing in Geneva, UNDESA, Human Rights Watch, HelpAge International and others during the 48th HRC session entitled ‘‘Human rights in older age: Towards the elimination of ageism and age discrimination”. The High Commissioner opened the event and older persons from around the world participated followed by the Independent Expert.
- The Open Letter calling for the creation of an intersessional group to advance the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing’s (OEWG) work by drafting normative elements of a new UN convention was launched on the day of the side event with over 200 signatories, including many GAROP members.
- Participation by civil society representatives in the HRC’s informal negotiations by Member States on the content of the resolution.
What does this mean for our work towards a UN convention?
- The report from the OHCHR will present further evidence and analysis about the inadequacy of the existing international human rights system and the role that a new dedicated binding instrument (UN convention) could play in strengthening the protection of older people’s rights.
- The timing of the report means that it could be used as an official input to the 12th OEWG session in April 2022 and could lead to an important discussion there.
- The stakeholder meeting that OHCHR will convene before September 2022 will be an important opportunity to move forward the discussions around a UN convention between the annual OEWG sessions.