On 10 December 2018, the Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing in Geneva, Silvia Perel-Levin, sent a letter to the High Commissioner (HC) congratulating her on her new position. The letter was sent on the Human Rights Day that celebrated 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We expressed how our Committee together with civil society around the world contributed to the OHCHR campaign “Stand Up 4 Human Rights” by marking the International Day of Older Persons on 1st October with the theme “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions” and endorsing the AGE Platform campaign against Ageism.
We stressed how age-based discrimination could not be tolerated anymore and requested a meeting to discuss we could enhance the cooperation with her and her office to better uphold the rights of older persons.
We were invited for a 30-minutes meeting with the High Commissioner in her office on 1st April 2019.
Our delegation consisted of Bridget Sleap, HelpAge International; Xenia Scheil-Adlung, International Federation on Ageing (IFA); Claudia Mahler, German National Human Rights Institute and member of the Gloabla Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) working group on the rights of older persons; Valerie Bichelmeier, Make Mothers Matter (MMM) and treasurer of the NGO CoA, and Silvia Perel-Levin as Chair NGO CoA and member of the steering Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP). Rio Hada, focal point on rge rights of older persons at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Janja Sinkovic from the HC’s front office were also present at the meeting.
We requested the HC to include a true life-course perspective in her work and to publicly express her support for a new convention on the rights of older persons. We stressed that her support and that of her office were essential to deliver the concrete outcomes necessary to change the lives of older women and men who are denied their rights and subjected to ageism and discrimination.
This support can be provided in the following ways:
1. Raising the visibility of the rights of older persons in the speeches and reports of the HC.
2. Supporting the call for a new international instrument on the rights of older persons.
3. Participation of the HC in OEWGA sessions, intersessional events, and other meetings on the rights of older persons organized by multiple stakeholders, including Civil Society.
4. Including the rights of older persons in the work of the OHCHR’s regional and field offices.
5. Supporting the work and renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.
The discussion was very friendly and covered a range of topics such as discrimination, data, social protection, long-term care, older women’s particular vulnerability to poverty and human rights defenders. We also discussed the Member States positions regarding a new legally binding instrument. The HC said that she believed that the resistance was not of substance but was related to the overburdened and criticized treaty bodies. We proposed that this was a moment of opportunity for the office and all Stakeholders to look for creative ways to establish a new treaty into one that truly works. We suggested that creating a new meaningful treaty could prove to be easier that fixing the already established ones. We suggested this is a year of opportunities and requested she take it forward. This could be part of her legacy.
We reminded her of the upcoming opportunities for promoting the rights of older persons, notably the panel on capacity building around the human rights of older persons to take place at the 41st session of the HRC, the report of the Independent Expert at the 42nd session and the resolution calling for the renewal of the mandate.
The HC committed to support us. To her we need to convince Member States that it is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. She stressed the importance of raising the intersections and multiplicity of discriminations. She indicated that she had already started mentioning older persons whenever she could. She said that she had tried to attend the OEWG but that she had not manage to include it in her busy travel plans, but that she had already recorded a statement to open the session in NY. She said she would try to attend in person in the future.
The HC also asked us how we recommend she refers to older persons, what language should or shouldn’t she use. She asked for information on the regional developments and reflected on her work in Chile. She also observed how Member Sates were increasingly taking up the issue of disabilities.
The HC concluded by saying that our message was well and clearly received, and we expressed our hope for a continued dialogue. We gave her a memo summarizing our requests, the GAROP report “Our Voices, our Rights”, a HelpAge report “Living, not just surviving” and a IFA report with an oral invitation to speak at the IFA conference in 2020.
The meeting lasted 45-50 minutes.