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Older People: An Internationally Binding Instrument to Ensure Freedom from Violence, Abuse and Neglect

HRW Oral Statement - ID with the Independent Expert on Older Persons - HRC54

Mr. President,

Human Rights Watch shares the Independent Expert’s concern that climate change and related disasters have a disproportionate effect on the human rights of older people in Bangladesh, and that the lack of an inclusive disaster response exacerbates this.

In 2022, Bangladesh authorities failed to deliver early warnings of severe flooding to older people and provide them adequate assistance with evacuation, accessible shelter, health care, food, and water and sanitation.

The government of Bangladesh should act on its commitments under its national disaster management and climate change adaptation plans by ensuring that older people are meaningfully included in disaster response and adaptation, and have access to services and infrastructure.

We also share the Independent Expert’s concern over violence, abuse and neglect, and that older people with dementia are often subjected to chemical restraints, that is, the use of antipsychotic drugs to control behavior without a therapeutic purpose.

In Australia, for example, despite regulations introduced to minimize their use in 2019, chemical restraints were used in more than 150 aged care facilities between July 2020 and July 2021.

The use of antipsychotic drugs in older people with dementia nearly doubles the risk of death. Governments should prohibit their use to control the behavior of older people and instead ensure their rights are protected.

This Council should heed the Independent Expert’s recommendation on the need for “a comprehensive international legally binding instrument on the human rights of older persons that would address the right to life free from violence, abuse and neglect in older age,” and commit to accelerating progress towards the drafting of such a convention.

Thank you.

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