Why we need a convention


Why do we need a convention for older people?

Age discrimination and ageism are tolerated across the world, and older people experience discrimination and the violation of their rights at family, community and institutional levels.

At the same time unprecedented demographic ageing means that the number of people who are likely to experience age discrimination and violation of their rights in old age will increase.

Despite the fact that international human rights laws apply to people of all ages, specific reference to older people is rare. As a result, older people’s rights are not being protected sufficiently by human rights monitoring mechanisms, governments, the human rights community and civil society.

What would a convention do to change this?

Clearly, there is much that existing human rights instruments can do to better address the rights of older people.

However, ageing brings with it particular vulnerabilities to discrimination and rights violations and the existing human rights instruments are not enough to provide the necessary protection for older people, both in law and practice.


A single instrument, a new international convention on the rights of older people, is necessary to:

  • Provide a definitive, universal position that age discrimination is morally and legally unacceptable.
  • Provide legally binding protection with accompanying accountability mechanisms.
  • Provide clarity for duty bearers and rights holders on what their rights and responsibilities are towards older people.
  • Bring together existing rights standards that are currently dispersed throughout various other instruments and interpretive documents.
  • Redress the present imbalanced focus on older people’s economic and social rights by bringing all indivisible rights into one instrument.
  • Put age discrimination and older people’s rights more centrally onto governments’, donors’ and NGOs’ agendas.
  • Draw attention to, deepen understanding of and provide redress for the complex, multiple forms of discrimination that older women and men experience.
  • Provide a framework to guide policy responses to demographic ageing based on rights, equity and social justice.
  • Provide a powerful advocacy and education tool for older people and those that represent them for claiming their rights.
  • Encourage a paradigm shift from older people being considered recipients of welfare, to older people as rights holders with responsibilities.