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Human Rights Watch Calls for Better Protections for the Rights of Older People

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons

Human Rights Watch welcomes the Independent Expert’s report,[1] and agree with her conclusions that older persons face particular challenges in the enjoyment of their human rights, and that these challenges need to be addressed urgently.[2] The challenges include ensuring the full enjoyment of the rights of older persons living in institutions, older persons facing humanitarian emergencies, and widows.

We note her conclusion, affirming that of other human rights bodies, that there are protection gaps in ensuring the full enjoyment of older persons’ human rights,[3] and that existing mechanisms designed to guarantee the full exercise of the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of older persons have been found to have flaws.[4]

We therefore urge states to support the elaboration of an international legal instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons, and call on the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing to fulfill its mandate by presenting a proposal of the main elements of such an instrument to the UN General Assembly.[5] 

Human Rights Watch also shares the concerns of the Independent Expert about the need for more information on crucial issues such as legal capacity, palliative care, assistance to victims of violence and abuse, available remedies, independence and autonomy, and the right to an adequate standard of living.[6]

We would welcome the Independent Expert’s views on how the mandate and this Council may best advance critical needs such as:

  1. Assessing existing international and national law systems and raising awareness about challenges faced by older persons in the realization of rights within these systems, including the extent of reporting on older persons’ rights in existing treaty body mechanisms;
  2. Integrating a gender perspective, with particular attention to older women and the intersection of old age discrimination and gender discrimination; and
  3. Contributing to the substantive understanding of how human rights standards – and states’ human rights obligations in relation to them – apply in the context of older age by supporting a resolution on an interactive debate on the right of older persons to autonomy, in recognition of the Independent Expert’s A/HRC/30/43 report on Autonomy and Care of Older Persons. This would deepen understanding of how inequalities and discrimination that interfere with the autonomy of older persons can be eliminated, both in their roles as caregivers and as recipients of care.

[1] A/HRC/33/44, Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, 8 July 2016.

[2] para 122.

[3] para 123.

[4] para 125, citing A/AC.278/2015/2, p. 8.

[5] para 125.

[6] para 122.

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