On 31st January, GAROP held the third in its series of webinars help in partnership with the International Federation on Ageing. The discussion focused on Independence and Autonomy, one of the two new focus areas to be discussed at the ninth session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) in New York on 23rd-26th July 2018. The UN has called for written submissions on this focus area and three others in preparation for the ninth session.
The webinar was moderated by Ken Bluestone (Co-chair of GAROP) and the speakers were Bridget Sleap (HelpAge International) and Borja Arrue (AGE Platform Europe).
You can hear and watch a recording of the full webinar here.
The presentations used in the webinar are available here:
Bridget presented the results of HelpAge’s recent consultation with older people in 24 countries about what independence and autonomy means to them, including the importance of being able and free to make their own decisions, and being able to do things for themselves. This independence was inevitably lost when they had to ask others for assistance. The barriers to autonomy included family members, local authorities or government officials, or service providers. Bridget also highlighted the gaps and inconsistencies in international and regional human rights instruments and proposed ways in which this right could be clearly articulated in a new UN convention.
Borja focused his presentation on the right to independent living, for which key elements include can be defined as freedom of choice, access to person-centred care, and active participation in social activities or events. This is put at risk when people lose the ability to choose or decide for themselves, where quality dignified care is unavailable, or where access to a social life is denied resulting in isolation. These social and physical barriers must be addressed to ensure the full enjoyment of this right with the full range of necessary care and support measures regardless of living arrangements.
In the discussion that followed the presentations, the gaps in international law were presented. This includes the failure to clearly articulate standards in terms of how they specifically apply in older age and how this acts as a barrier to implementation at local and national level. As a result older people’s rights are also invisible in the international system so that when governments report on how they are meeting their obligations under international law they often ignore or forget to include how older people are able to enjoy these rights. The importance of presenting human rights and UN processes in an accessible and less technical and abstract way to older people and their advocates was also highlighted (see AGE Platform Europe’s Older Person’s Self-Advocacy Handbook) as was the need to change ageist attitudes about older age in order to support change and improvements in practice. It was also agreed that as we have seen with other international treaties, a new convention would play a positive role in empowering older people and enabling then to participate fully and live self-fulfilling lives.
In concluding the discussion, Ken encouraged all NGOs to work with their Governments, National Human Rights Institutions, older people and other experts at national level to raise awareness of the UN call for written submissions, build a dialogue around the focus areas to develop content, and provide inputs themselves if they are UN accredited. You can find more information about the benefits of accreditation and how to apply here. He also urged organisations who are not currently accredited with the OEWG to consider applying for accreditation ahead of the next ninth OEWG session. All organisations are invited to join GAROP if they have not already done so, and to make use of the resources that GAROP is developing and sharing to support involvement in this process.
Check the GAROP calendar for details of the next webinar.