Workshop on Advancing the Campaign to Elaborate a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons


On 11 December 2016, advocates of a proposed Convention on the Rights of Older Persons (the convention) met at New York University’s School of Law to share experiences and develop strategies to advance the campaign ahead of the seventh session of the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) and beyond. Participants comprised representatives of non-government organisations, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), universities and the UN as well as members of the public and one government official. They came from a range of countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Cameroon, Australia, Korea, the UK and the US.

In 2010, the UN General Assembly voted to establish an open-ended working group, the OEWGA, to review the ‘existing international framework of the human rights of older persons’ and to identify ‘possible gaps and how best to address them’. The General Assembly extended and expanded the mandate of the OEWGA in 2012, requesting it to consider ‘proposals for an international legal instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons’. This was a major coup for those advocating the elaboration of a convention as it represents a positive step towards achieving this end. While many consider that the adoption of a convention will eventually occur, the process of generating political support for drafting one has been slow.

The experience of establishing previous UN human rights treaties has shown that a strong and dense transnational advocacy network can make a significant contribution to influencing states’ positions on developing a treaty and in expediting the drafting process. This can be achieved through strong domestic campaigns, increasing the number and diversity of network members, marshalling resources, strong coordination and communication between civil society (as well as between civil society, state, NHRI and UN advocates), and the deployment of effective advocacy strategies in domestic and international settings.

The rationale for the workshop was to provide an opportunity for to discuss ways in which civil society might more effectively mobilise its resources, develop its advocacy, and collaborate with influential allies (including NHRIs) to ensure that the momentum to establish a convention was sustained and enhanced going forward. The goals of the workshop included:

(1)    Clarifying the international legal and political process for elaborating a new convention

(2)    Sharing lessons from key national campaigns to advocate for a convention

(3)    Identifying actions to strengthen national campaigns

(4)    Identifying strategies for collective action beyond the 7th OEWGA meeting

The workshop was organised by the Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia and HelpAge International, with support from the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU’s School of Law. The following sections summarise the main points of presentations and subsequent discussions.


Download a copy of the report here.