BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Winter, 2021
We need a United Nations convention on
the human rights of older persons
By Diane Wood
Older women and men have the same rights as everyone else: we are all born equal and this does not change as we grow older. Even so, older people’s rights are mostly invisible under international law.
There is currently considerable support at the United Nations, including in the office of the U.N. Secretary General, for the proposition that a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons is needed in order to fill a gap in current international human rights protections.
Right now, women, children, the disabled and Indigenous persons all have U.N. recognized human rights but older persons have no such protections. The importance of a Convention is that, once it has been passed into law by a member nation, it becomes enforceable in that country through legal claims of human rights violations which are heard in the courts, and in this way, attract public attention.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Rights conventions apply to all persons regardless of age. HOWEVER, age is not listed explicitly as a reason why someone should not be discriminated against.
Some of the Rights of Older Persons to be protected by a U.N. Convention would include: quality health and residential care, housing, transportation, access to justice, freedom from abuse and protection from scams.
A United Nations Convention would: • provide a reporting and accountability mechanism for U.N. Member States’ actions towards older people
• provide a system of redress for the violation of the rights of older people
• encourage ongoing dialogue among Member States, civil society organizations, Non Governmental Organizations, the older people themselves, through the monitoring of its implementation
• provide clarity on what older people’s rights are and the minimum standards and actions necessary to protect them
As well, a Convention would:
• oblige ratifying states to adopt non-discriminatory laws
• provide the basis for advocacy, public awareness and education on the rights of older persons
• help older people live lives of dignity and provide minimum standards and actions necessary to protect older people
Adoption by the U.N. of a Convention requires the action of member nations. Sadly, our federal government has not seen fit to support a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons, and so the government, through our local Members of Parliament need to be pushed and prodded by older persons until it appreciates the importance of establishing this new international recognition of human rights.
The BC Federation of Retired Union Members (BC FORUM) has met with NDP MP Peter Julian to raise, inform and discuss this issue and to ask for his support which he has given. Peter has committed to move this issue forward. BC FORUM is grateful for his support. All of us need to raise our voices whenever and wherever possible on this issue. BC FORUM is working with our allies on this provincially, nationally and internationally. Most recently BC FORUM worked with the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC (COSCO) to develop a resolution to the National Pensioners Convention (NPF) held in September of this year calling for a U.N. Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons. The resolution was passed.
Please join us in supporting a U.N. Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons.