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Human Rights Council discusses human rights of older persons

MORNING

Concludes General Debate on the Oral Update by the High Commissioner

GENEVA (15 September 2016) - The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the general debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner.

In the presentation of her reports, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte said that older persons were the fastest-growing segment of the population, and that by 2050, there would be two billion older persons, up from the current 900 million. The report offered a general view of the situation of older persons and clearly showed that further measures were necessary to protect the human rights of the elderly and address specific difficulties they encountered. The report also cited some promising practices in this regard, such as the adoption of national policies and strategies on ageing, which addressed the right to work, social protection, equality and non-discrimination, access to justice, protection from violence and harassment, and other key areas.

Costa Rica spoke as a concerned country. Ombudsman of Costa Rica, the national human rights institution, also took the floor.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers stressed that in many societies, caring for the elderly was not only a societal value and a duty but a privilege: they were bearers of traditional knowledge to be transmitted to younger generations. Speakers concurred on the urgent need to address the human rights of older persons through national strategies and policies, and acknowledged the variety of views on how to better protect the human rights of older persons, including adopting a new international treaty. Some delegations considered that the existing United Nations treaties sufficiently protected the human rights of the elderly and that they needed to be better implemented, while others endorsed the recommendation to step up the activity of the Open-Ended Working Group of Ageing in order to accelerate the progress on the drafting of an international instrument on the rights of older persons. Institutionalization of the older persons should be seen as a human rights violation, speakers said and called for a move from commitment to action, with the participation of all stakeholders.

Slovenia on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Rights of Older Persons, European Union, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dominican Republic on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group, Thailand, Israel, Qatar, Germany, Japan, Ecuador, Fiji, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Cuba, Australia, Russia, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Greece, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa, Venezuela, Montenegro, Argentina, India, United States, Egypt, Honduras, El Salvador, China, Singapore, Benin, Council of Europe, Maldives, Portugal, Sudan, Belarus, Togo, Botswana, Iraq, Holy See, Iran, Indonesia, Bolivia, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Namibia, Sovereign Order of Malta, Philippines, Italy, Paraguay, Ghana, Kenya, Colombia, Burkina Faso and Morocco addressed the Council in the interactive dialogue.

Also taking the floor were Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, and the following non-governmental organizations: Help Age International, International Longevity Centre Global Alliance, COC Nederland in a joint statement with the International Lesbian and Gay Association, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Alliance Defending Freedom, Human Rights Watch, Arab Commission for Human Rights and Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the general debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner that started on 14 September. The summary of the first part of the debate is available here, and the oral update by the High Commissioner, presented at the opening of the thirty-third regular session on 13 September, can be accessed here.

Speakers in the general debate shared the High Commissioner’s concern about polarization and the lack of cooperation and noted that the Human Rights Council was the result of a collective action and that nothing could justify the lack of cooperation with this body that all States had accepted. They expressed concern about the increasingly difficult access to international protection for asylum seekers and refugees, and on reprisals by Member States of the Human Rights Council. They welcomed the first ever United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which represented a historic opportunity to address one of the greatest global challenges of the modern age.

Speaking in the general debate were: Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Article 19, Human Rights Information and Training Centre, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, International Service for Human Rights, Save the Children (joint statement), France Libertes: Foundation Danielle Mitterrand, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, International Muslim Women Union, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparency, All China Environment Federation, Auspice Stella and Arab Commission for Human Rights.

The Human Rights Council is holding a full day of meetings today. Next, it will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

General Debate on the Oral Update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme drew attention to the fact that the creation of the Council had been the result of collective action and nothing could justify the lack of cooperation with this body that all States had accepted. The common challenges that brought all before this Council could only be overcome by the sustained engagement of all.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues noted that laws and measures adopted across European Union Member States made it increasingly difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to access international protection, and some of those States had built fences to prevent access to their territory.

Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, The, expressed concern over the fact that in 41 per cent of cases, States failed to respond to communications from the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and that too many States were yet to respond to requests for country visits or confirm them. Media freedom was deteriorating worldwide against the Council’s commitments on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

Human Rights Information and Training Centre drew the attention of the Council to the situation of human rights in Yemen, and in particular the 647 children killed in this conflict. The recruitment of children by the militias was widespread, and there were also reports of sexual abuse. Nothing was being done to address the scourge of recruitment of children, including girls.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom expressed grave concern about the situation in Yemen, which in the words of the High Commissioner had significantly deteriorated over the past year. Women and girls suffered disproportionately, due to forced displacement, sexual violence, trafficking, and lack of access to health care. Cluster munitions, banned in 2008, had been used by the Saudi-led coalition.

International Service for Human Rights said that there were calls for greater cooperation within the Council but the paradox was that the States which were loudest in this call were the ones which cooperated least with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights mechanisms. Reprisals by Member States of the Council deserved special condemnation, and it was high time for the Council to implement strict membership standards.

Save the Children International, in a joint statement with International Social Service; Defence for Children International; Arigatou International; and International Catholic Child Bureau, welcomed the first ever United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which represented a historic opportunity to address one of the greatest global challenges of the modern age. Children were at the centre of migration movements, with nearly 50 million of them moving within or across borders.

France Libertes: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand shared the concerns of the High Commissioner regarding the human rights violations in Iran and deeply regretted the lack of cooperation of the authorities with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Extrajudicial executions were commonplace and some 30,000 political prisoners had been executed since 1979.

Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme drew attention to the human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, notably the use of cluster bombs against civilians. The international community had to ensure accountability for those crimes. The organization called for the immediate end of the use of force against Yemeni civilians and the investigation of all crimes.

International Humanist and Ethical Union expressed concern about instrumentalising and distorting the concept of “secularism”. When properly understood, political and legal secularism was the best potential framework in which to provide conditions for the flourishing of human rights, but disproportionately limiting the right to freedom of expression through bans on clothing, veils or facial hair – particularly when targeted at one minority – devalued and debased the value of secularism.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy welcomed the willingness of Pakistan to allow access to the disputed territory to the United Nations fact-finding mission. India planned to blind a generation in the occupied Kashmir, and for the last 66 days, Indian Kashmir, Punjab and other states had been under siege, with Indian armed forces using bullets to kill and pellets to blind. Torture, arbitrary detention and harassment were the order of the day.

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee said that the Special Powers Act was only imposed in north-east India, and was used as a tool of oppression of minorities in Manipur region. The Government had failed in its duty to protect the population and the Human Rights Council should ask India to repeal the Special Powers Act.

International Muslim Women’s Union said that during the last two months, India had used guns to supress the people of Jammu and Kashmir, creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. India was also stopping ambulances, thus creating medical and human emergencies. The use of pellet guns had injured 11,000 people and blinded more than 100.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik spoke about Iran, noting that effective and unfettered access to the country, including prisons, and meeting independent civil society activists and victims were minimum conditions yet to be accepted by Iran. Recommendations from the first Universal Periodic Review cycle were still just promises on paper.

Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social noted that 1,500 persons had been executed in the United States in 2015. In Venezuela, reforms had improved the prisons. Venezuela had also recently adopted a national human rights plan. Deep concern was expressed about action on the part of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights as well as about media portrayal of Venezuela.

Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty said that while Ethiopia in theory had a federalist constitution that guaranteed equal participation in national politics, in practice those fell under the control of a Tigray-dominated elite. Five hundred people had died since November, but that information had not reached international audiences because free speech was criminalized in Ethiopia. The Council was requested to create a commission of inquiry to examine all alleged human rights violations in Ethiopia.

All China Environment Federation noted that environmental pollution and ecological destruction violated the rights of the people to a clean environment, adding that environmental rights were important and an indicator of democracy. The organization looked forward to continuing cooperation with the United Nations agencies and all other stakeholders to safeguard the public’s environmental rights.

Auspice Stella noted that indigenous peoples had to have the right to have a voice in their own development. However, there was a lack of political will to curb capitalist projects that endangered forests, water and land. In Chile many power plants were established without consultation with the indigenous peoples, such as in the case of Holding RP Global Chile which had constructed in Tranguil, which had led to the death of Macarena Valdés, an activist that opposed the construction of power lines.

Arab Commission for Human Rights reminded that Israel had continued its colonial enterprise by expanding settlements. It had also continued to carry out extrajudicial executions with impunity and had killed scores of Palestinian civilians. It called on the High Commissioner to pay particular attention to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Experts on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons (A/HRC/33/44).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Independent Experts on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons – Mission to Costa Rica (A/HRC/33/44/Add.1).

Presentation by the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons

ROSA KORNFELD-MATTE, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, presenting her reports, said that older persons were not only a significant proportion of the world population today, but also the fastest-growing segment of the population: by 2050, there would be two billion older persons, up from current 900 million. The world population was ageing in all regions of the world, and although the majority of the elderly today – 67 per cent – lived in Europe, the increase in the number of older persons would be greater in the global South. Demographic transformation of the group of the elderly would cause certain concerns and have implications on the realization of their human rights.
Turning to her visit to Costa Rica, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte said that there was a need to increase cooperation between various bodies involved in the issue of older people in order to ensure the enjoyment of their human rights, particularly older indigenous peoples. Costa Rica was a pioneer in Latin America in the adoption of laws, policies and programmes on the human rights of older persons, and the Independent Expert in particular welcomed the adoption in 1999 of an integral law for older persons.
The report offered a general view of the situation of older persons and the assessment of the level of enjoyment of their human rights, in accordance with the 2002 Madrid International Action Plan on Ageing. It was clear that further measures were necessary to protect the rights of the elderly. Older people encountered a certain number of specific difficulties which needed to be urgently addressed, and the report cited some promising practices in this regard, such as the adoption of national policies and strategies on ageing, which addressed the right to work, social protection, equality and non-discrimination, access to justice, and protection from violence and harassment, among others. The Independent Expert stressed that, although the 2002 Madrid International Action Plan on Ageing made references to human rights, it was not a human rights instrument and it only addressed issues of ageing under the angle of development. The Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, established by the General Assembly in 2010, was working on developing new instruments such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and the Independent Expert urged States to double their efforts in ensuring the enjoyment of human rights by older persons. The creation of this mandate by the Human Rights Council in 2013 represented a conceptual shift in the approach to ageing from the one centred mainly on economy and development to an approach focused on the imperative of human rights which saw the elderly as rights holders and not just beneficiaries.

Statement by Concerned Country

Costa Rica expressed appreciation for the work undertaken, and noted that it was paying attention to the recommendations made by the Independent Expert. Costa Rica had experienced a democratic transition. That had brought challenges in terms of adopting public policy. Efforts were highlighted, starting with the legal framework, including an institutional framework for follow-up as well as an advisory committee and policies pursued by the judiciary to make justice accessible for older people. The importance of building links of solidarity with older people living in conditions of vulnerability and social risk was noted. A core consideration was incorporating older persons in policy-making in programmes designed for them. Health was vital and Costa Rica had full coverage of services and specialized care through geriatric medical facilities. Internationally, Costa Rica had supported the establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. The work achieved to date did not mean all issues had been resolved. It was essential to continue working with all stakeholders to prevent and combat violence which might affect the human rights of the aged.

Ombudsman of Costa Rica said that the Government of Costa Rica had sought to provide specific protection for older persons through Constitutional provisions, and a specific law on older persons which had established the National Council for Older Persons that guaranteed the national policy on older persons and their rights. Costa Rica had also ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. However, it still needed to adopt a national action plan in order to implement concrete policies in that domain.

Interactive Dialogue

Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Human Rights of Older Persons, noted that many human rights remained insufficiently articulated when it came to older persons. The existing human rights system was not sufficient to address the specific challenges faced by older persons. European Union asked the Independent Expert about her views on how to foster assistance and support to family members and other informal caregivers to older persons, and to elaborate on how gender inequality emerging from the contributory social security system could be eliminated through the revision of its rules and entitlements. South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reminded that the population of older persons would soon be larger than any other social group. While a human rights-based approach had to be adopted in policies for older persons, it should also be coupled with a right to development-based approach. The African Group raised concern over the wellbeing of older persons living in rural areas.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the traditional family established two core responsibilities: upbringing the young and caring for the elderly, which was not only a duty but a privilege: they were bearers of traditional knowledge that should be transmitted to younger generations. The institutionalization of the elderly should be seen as a human rights violation. Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, concurred on the urgent need to address the human rights of older persons through national strategies and policies, and endorsed the recommendation to step up the activity of the Open-Ended Working Group of Ageing in order to accelerate the progress on the drafting of an international instrument on the rights of older persons. Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reminded of the religious value of respect for the elderly and agreed on the need to improve measures to guarantee the human rights of older persons. The Arab Group called for the implementation of the Madrid International Action Plan on Ageing and the stepping up of measures to improve the life of the elderly. Thailand was undergoing a demographic change and in preparation for the increase in the number of elderly, it had established last year a Department of Older Persons. It had also adopted the Older Persons Act which guaranteed the rights of the elderly by providing protection and benefits in health, social and economic areas.

Israel said older persons were regarded nationally as subjects of law, with specific rights, and shared some Israeli best practices, which included a “Public Call Centre” where older persons and their families could learn about their rights and benefits. Qatar noted that Qatar had put in place strategies and programmes to ensure the rights of older persons, and had also created specialized agencies which provided health and social services to older persons. Germany expressed agreement with the Independent Expert that the implementation of the Madrid Plan had made uneven progress, and asked which measures or legal instruments would strengthen and safeguard the human rights of older people. Japan said that as its aging rate was the highest in the world, it had rich experience with policies and legislation to meet such challenges, and stood ready and willing to share that experience; measures taken nationally included public health insurance for all citizens and public long-term care insurance.

Ecuador said the international community faced major challenges in protecting the rights of older persons, and to that end Ecuador had taken various initiatives to meet the needs of older persons through public policies. Fiji noted that older persons should be empowered to live independent lives and that effective care for older persons needed to integrate economic, physical, mental and social factors. Libya supported all international standards on the rights of older persons, and urged the international community to launch an international initiative to make people aware of the rights of older persons.

Mexico asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on how the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could contribute to the promotion of the rights of older persons. Pakistan noted that respect and care for the elderly was part of its socio-cultural ethos and that it was currently considering a draft senior citizens bill. Cuba stated it had taken steps to improve services to older persons, who would by 2030 constitute 31 per cent of the Cuban population. The measures addressed the issues of healthcare, housing, and violence against older persons. Brazil shared the Independent Expert’s view on the need for a comprehensive approach to the rights of older persons and to fight all forms of violence on the basis of age.

Australia acknowledged the variety of views on how to better protect the human rights of older persons, including adopting a new international treaty; however, existing United Nations treaties sufficiently protected the human rights of the elderly and only needed to be better implemented. Russia said that despite the scepticism by the Independent Expert with regard to the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, this was a key document to protect the rights of the elderly. The existing human rights instruments were sufficient. Turkey agreed that ageing and older persons needed greater focus and it must not be forgotten that the elderly were a most vulnerable group in emergencies. States should adopt comprehensive national strategies on the elderly encompassing all the different aspects.

Sierra Leone stressed the need to include older persons in decisions or policies that would affect them and said that global ageing within the development context should be considered along with long-term economic and social policies and programmes to redress any imbalance. Greece had taken several measures to put the elderly at the heart of the human rights discourse, including the adoption in 2013 of the National Action Plan on dementia and Alzheimer. Malaysia noted that the current international discourse on the issue of older persons continued to be dominated by the question on whether this issue should be dealt with through a social development approach or a rights-based approach, which would suggest the formulation of an international legal instrument.

Chile said Chile had fostered various programmes to support older persons and bolster their participation in society, adding that the international community needed to continue to work to take a comprehensive approach and adequately protect older persons’ rights. South Africa said that older persons should be allowed to live in dignity and respect, adding that nationally, an Older Persons Act had been enacted in 2006, and that the Government remained committed to promoting and protecting the rights of older persons. Venezuela said that it was essential to apply international instruments to give rise to public policy frameworks to improve older persons’ lives, and that Venezuela had implemented a fundamental change of the pension system in this regard.

Montenegro said that the growth of the elderly population had produced a demand for social protection systems, and that Montenegro had enacted several national reforms on that matter. Argentina said that there was a need to bring about a paradigm shift to a rights-based approach that considered older persons as rights holders, and that Argentina fully supported the work of the Independent Expert. India said that the aging world population was a world concern. India had undertaken measures to promote social, economic and emotional security for the elderly, but it cautioned against the creation of a new instrument on elderly persons.

United States asked the Independent Expert whether it would be feasible to expect every country to provide a universal public pension, and what a new convention would add to the protections already present in existing human rights treaties. Egypt noted that the issues of legal capacity, long-term care, social protection, right to work and health, equality and non-discrimination, violence and abuse, participation, adequate standard of living and access to justice for older persons were its priorities. Honduras commended the Independent Expert’s work on data collection regarding the rights of older persons, adding that the Government had worked to guarantee the rights of older persons, particularly in the field of health and social protection.

El Salvador stated that there were gaps in the existing human rights system and as such it did not provide comprehensive protection for older persons, which should be broader. China said that in order to handle the problem of population ageing, the Government had established a mechanism to oversee family planning, employment, the pension system, social protection, healthcare and social participation. Singapore noted that older persons should not be seen as mere beneficiaries, but as individuals empowered to learn, stay active and contribute to their communities.

Benin said that all societies, traditional or modern, saw the elderly as a source of knowledge on which the society was based and more needed to be done to promote the human rights of those persons who were extremely vulnerable, including through the exchange of good practices. Council of Europe had adopted in 2014 a recommendation on the promotion of the human rights of older persons, a non-binding instrument which covered key areas of non-discrimination, autonomy and participation, protection from violence and abuse, social protection and employment, care and administration to justice.

Maldives said that the 2030 Agenda and its inclusion of goals directly and indirectly related to the rights of older persons would be instrumental in overcoming the challenges countries faced in the context of older persons. Portugal was fully committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of older persons, and the implementation of its plan for the development of a National Network of Integrated Continuous Care 2016-2019. Sudan was developing a national strategy for older persons, and was already implementing a national plan of action for the elderly, to ensure enjoyment of all their rights on all the national territory. Belarus believed that every generation was unique and had a unique social experience in its possession. The Independent Expert should look further into the social role of families in order to enhance the full implementation of the rights of older persons.

Togo said that the growing number of older persons represented a major challenge to governments and communities which needed to provide adequate care. The Togolese Government had developed a plan of action to protect older persons in order to meet their needs with solidarity. Botswana said that progress made by States in the area of social protection and non-discrimination was welcomed, adding that Botswana’s population benefited from old-age pensions, mobile clinics, and many other measures. Iraq said that the elderly played a very important role in Iraqi society, and that a draft law had been developed on the introduction of electronic cards which would help identify persons and set up support structures for them.

Holy See said that older persons represented the fastest-growing segment of the population. The major challenges facing older persons, including health care, the right to work, social protection, access to justice, violence and abuse, and discrimination were of great concern for the Holy See. Iran said that awareness raising was an important feature of the enjoyment of human rights by all older persons, and that the inclusion of certain controversial terms in the report was of concern. Indonesia said that it had set up a national strategy which was part of the national human rights action plan, and that existing gaps in implementation should be addressed, bearing in mind the resources available.

Bolivia agreed that the situation of older persons required more thorough analysis and that there should be an awareness effort in order to better understand the needs of older persons, given demographic changes. Tunisia attached great importance to older persons in all fields of life in order to provide dignity for all. As older persons were the repository of knowledge and experience beneficial for all of society, they deserved adequate protection and social participation. Bangladesh agreed with the Independent Expert that sharing good practices at the regional level could guide national-level implementation, taking into account regional specificities. However, certain parts of her report lacked science-based evidence.

Namibia welcomed the gender and disability perspective in the Independent Expert’s report, and the focus on persons of African descent, various ethnic, national, religious and linguistic minorities, indigenous communities, rural persons, those living on the streets and refugees. Sovereign Order of Malta stated that legal instruments would be better accepted and implemented if they were based on ethical principles anchored in the public conscience, adding that older persons should be systematically integrated in all public policy-making.

Italy asked the Independent Expert to highlight and share best practices, priority areas, and the most compelling challenges in light of the Sustainable Development Goals. Paraguay said that sharing best practices was very helpful because there was always space for improvement when it came to the care and protection of the rights of older persons, asking the Independent Expert for the next steps in consolidating the work of the Human Rights Council on the issue under discussion. Ghana said that the rise in life expectancy was one of humanity’s greatest achievements, and that there was a need for a comprehensive human rights-based approach to the care of older persons, adding that Ghana was implementing an initiative for a welfare card for the aged.

Kenya said that traditionally, older persons were cared for by their families, but families were disintegrating in pursuit of employment and better opportunities in urban areas, adding that it was imperative for governments to design comprehensive frameworks for the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons. Colombia said that the report of the Independent Expert was a key contribution to the discharge of the mandate, and that the discussion needed to be advanced so as to find relevant international instruments. Burkina Faso said it was in favour of the development of a convention on the rights of older persons, adding that nationally, a draft law on the rights of older persons had been submitted to Parliament. Morocco underlined the need for South-South cooperation and sharing of best practices in providing care and protecting and promoting the rights of older persons, taking into account economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions emphasized that a comprehensive binding human rights instrument on the rights of older persons would help to realize the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. HelpAge International rejected continued assertions by some Member States that the existing law was sufficient to address the unique human rights challenges faced by older persons. International Longevity Center Global Alliance noted that policy initiatives to deal with issues of older persons, such as elder abuse support, poverty or housing, typically failed to address root causes and were limited in time and budget.

Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, stated that the Independent Expert’s report had not examined the distinctive challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex elders and that there had been no proper mention of law implementation gaps in that respect. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain drew attention to the level of oppression faced by many elderly women due to some States’ continued implementation of male guardianship, such as in Saudi Arabia. They also faced barriers in accessing healthcare. Alliance Defending Freedom appreciated the Independent Expert’s call for a comprehensive and all-encompassing approach to the rights of older persons. However, it raised concern over the abuse in some States of the use of legalized euthanasia of older persons.

Human Rights Watch asked for the Independent Expert’s views on how the mandate and the Council could advance the integration of a gender perspective, with particular attention to older women, among other critical needs. Arab Commission for Human Rights said that the number of older persons would eventually exceed the number of young people, adding that the Independent Expert had noted that the Madrid Plan of Action had fallen short, and asking whether the international community should move toward a binding international convention. Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy denounced the genocide of youth in Punjab. Many older persons lived in India, but the youth were needed to cultivate the fields. Who would feed the elderly? The Centre urged the Council to send a commission of inquiry to study the situation of Sikhs in India.

Concluding Remarks

ROSA KORNFELD-MATTE, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, said that there were many gaps in the protection of the rights of older persons. In the twenty-first century, older persons were not subjected to an existential question, but rather they were rights holders. There were an increasing number of older persons all around the world. There was currently a window of time to make decisions. Older persons had a lot to say, and agreements could be reached by consensus. The international community needed to work on the issue. In discharging her mandate, she had managed to shift the discussion slightly, adding that the international community needed to work very hard in the time available to reach an agreement. Responding to some questions raised, she said she had visited many countries, and that in many countries there was significant inequality. In some countries, women who had devoted their entire lives to caring for others were left without resources. Those persons needed a non-contributory pension. Aging was not just a demographic issue, but a human rights issue. Real solutions were needed. Mistreatment, poverty, and the invisibility of the aged population were all real problems. She would work alongside all in the Human Rights Council until she managed to get an agreement with all States on board that allowed for a paradigm shift to a human rights-based approach.

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