AHRCentre chair, Andrew Byrnes, addresses the rights of older persons at the UN

Professor Andrew Byrnes presents on the human rights of older persons and the identification of existing gaps at the international level, including a panel discussion on “Planning for end-of-life care: Legal and financial issues”. He was participating in the session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing as part of the team of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, which has committed to support the development of a new UN convention on the human rights of older persons and which is working with the AHRCentre on this topic.

Prof Byrnes concludes his presentation with the following:

We know that there are significant shortfalls in ensuring the enjoyment of the human rights of older persons – ranging from stereotyped attitudes about the roles and abilities of older persons to the violation of the rights of older persons to physical and psychological integrity, and everything in between.

We also know that there are many areas in which violations of rights of older persons by non‐State actors and failures by States to fulfil existing legal obligations are largely invisible or underreported.

We know that society is the worse‐off in many ways as a result of failures to respect the human rights of older persons.

We know the situation is going to become more challenging as the world ages rapidly.

We know that existing instruments, supervisory bodies and international and national procedures have failed to adequately to render visible and address many of these problems and that seeking to improve these mechanisms is only going to be a partial although necessary response.

We know from the experience of other specialised conventions (most recently the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) that the adoption of a focused legally binding treaty can make a significant difference – not by itself but as part of an overall strategy. It makes visible what was not seen, focuses attention on practical implementation measures, holds governments accountable to their citizens, and mobilises governmental and civil society efforts.

If we know all this, then we must conclude that there is a strong case for new convention. Our societies ask this of our governments – and we expect them to respond. There are many important and difficult conceptual and practical issues relating to the rights of older persons, some discussed on this and other panels, that need to be discussed as part of elaborating a new instrument. It is time to get on with that job.


Watch Professor Byrnes' presentation from 1 hour, 3 minutes ....or...... download a copy of his presentation by clicking here.