Two technical briefings on the rights of older persons took place at the 16th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the Palais Wilson, Geneva, headquarters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
The main target audience of these briefings were the members of the CRPD, but the events were also open to the public.
1) Friday, 19 August 2016: The Open-ended Working Group on Ageing and the UN Treaty Bodies
This briefing was organised by the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance (ILC GA) and the NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva, with the support of Age International as a contribution to the substantial discussions building up to the upcoming 33rd session of the Human Rights Council (13-30 September 2016) in Geneva and the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Ageing in New York (12-15 December 2016).
Presenting to the members of the CRPD committee, representatives from Member States, UN and NGOs, the briefing focused on the current state of the OEWG, the main arguments in favour of and against a Convention on the rights of older persons, what specific rights such an instrument might include, and what are the distinctions and intersections with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The point was strongly made about the existing protection gap and the urgency to move from debate to action.
The event was moderated by Silvia Perel-Levin, Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva and speakers were Klemen Ponikvar, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Slovenia to the UN in Geneva and Nena Georgantzi, Policy Officer on Human Rights and Non-Discrimination, AGE Platform Europe.
Representatives of ten Member States were present: Argentina, Austria, Canada, Fiji, Germany, Montenegro, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland and UK. In addition to the NGO Committee, ILC GA, Age International and Age Platform Europe, other big NGOs were also represented: GWI, Human Rights Watch, IDA, FIAPA, IAGG, LDS Charities, RADDHO, SI.
Staff members of WHO, UNECE and OHCHR also attended the briefing.
Some key points that members of the Committee raised during the fruitful discussion:
It is a timely issue as clearly older persons with disabilities have not been covered enough by CRPD
A request that civil society organisations provide the Committee with short briefs in relation to the specific countries that are being examined or under discussion by the Committee. This will assist the Committee in asking specific questions about older people with disabilities to reporting governments.
Aware that CRPD does not cover all inequalities experienced by older persons, a call was made to make sure that “we do not undermine one right by giving another”. That careful attention must be paid to ensure a focus on the rights of older persons should not undermine the rights of persons with disabilities.
The importance of lifelong learning and appropriate use of technology to maintain autonomy.
2. Thursday, 25 August 2016: Access to CRPD by persons with Dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and Dementia Alliance International (DAI) organised this briefing. Executive Director of ADI, Marc Wortman, moderated the event and panelists were Glen Rees, Chairman of ADI and Peter Mittler, Human Rights Advisor for DAI.
Strong statements such as “Dementia receives the worst care in the developed world” quoting a study by OECD, highlighted the fact that high-income countries have badly neglected people with dementia and that discrimination against older persons with dementia is a universal problem.
The CRPD Committee was called on to:
Use the full resources of the UN family to monitor the extent to which persons living with dementia are included in the implementation of the Convention by Member States; Include dementia in the List of Issues, General Comments and Thematic Briefings
CRPD members welcomed this briefing, agreed with the importance of including people with dementia in the discussions and made the connections with the briefing on older persons the previous week. Comments and questions by CRPD members included:
“If you see yourself in article 1, then you are included in CRPD. No need to ask others to include you”
The importance to navigate the possible conflicts between the medicalization of the issue and a human rights approach
The importance of new technologies in all social, clinical and other services
The importance to include family and caregivers support in the discussions
How many countries have human rights-based laws on older persons with dementia?
A more comprehensive report of these events and on advocacy efforts during the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva will be made available later in the year in preparation for the OEWG in December.