Monday, April 18, 2011

News from the Open-Ended Working Group

The UN launched its long-awaited Open-Ended Working Group on Aging today at the UN. The Argentine Ambassador presided over the meeting. Some 17 Member States gave short speeches outlining their aging rights policies. Diplomats from Denmark, Sweden, China, Chile, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Argentina, Japan, the UK, Syria, Qatar, Pakistan, United States, and France offered short summaries of their perspectives.

What were their views about a human rights instrument? It’s too early to tell clearly. Most diplomats described programs that were working well in their nations and almost all acknowledged the anticipated upsurge in the proportion of older people in their population. Argentina and Chile spoke eloquently about the need for human rights for older persons. The Arabic-speaking countries stressed family supports for older persons. Unfortunately, no speaker from Africa was present.

On the NGO side, Bridget Sleap (HelpAge International) and Susan Somers (International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse) and Jane Barratt from the (Coalition to Strengthen Older Persons Rights) offered the perspective of their organizations. GAA is a member of the latter group. Jane laid out the long list of documents that the UN had already adopted but were not binding on nation states. The result? Slow progress. She urged the Open-Ended Working Group to press forward with a binding human rights instrument.

The OEWG meets again tomorrow. We’ll be back with more reports on what’s happening.

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

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