Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines hosts two-day Asia-Pacific workshop on the human rights of older persons

Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines hosts two-day Asia-Pacific workshop on the human rights of older persons

The Manila workshop on the human rights of older persons, held on 29-30 August 2023, concluded with the adoption of the Call to Action on strengthening the advocacy of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the Asia-Pacific region for an international framework for the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons.

The two-day hybrid workshop gathered and aimed to build the capacities of A-status NHRIs in the Asia and the Pacific region on the progress and gaps at the international level on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons. It was a high-level event attended by Commissioners, Directors, and senior executive and human rights officers from A-status NHRIs in Australia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Palestine, the Philippines, Qatar, Samoa, South Korea, Thailand and Timor Leste.

This event is further enriched by the presence and expertise of the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Dr. Claudia Mahler, in her personal capacity, older persons, representatives from the academe and non-government and civil society organizations, including the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP), the Seniors for Seniors Association of the Philippines (S4S), the Coalition of Services for the Elderly Philippines (COSE), representatives from Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Philippines, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and representatives from the United Nations system – the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines.

During the first day of the workshop, participants and resource speakers engaged in learning sessions about updates on the developments in international mechanisms, specifically with respect to human rights norm-building efforts, at the United Nations General Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in New York, the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the 4th review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, particularly at the Asia and the Pacific, and the work of the Independent Expert as a mandate-holder among the United Nations Special Procedures mechanism. There was also an expert discussion on the normative standards and obligations under international law in relation to the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons, including gaps in the current framework, and the debate on why a new United Nations human rights Convention is needed to address these gaps. This discussion was informed by the experiences of older persons from the region of ageism and age discrimination and other human rights violations specifically experienced in older age. NHRIs and other experts also discussed how NHRIs can better engage with their respective governments and regional and international organizations to advocate for a new United Nations Convention.

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to in-depth discussions on what a new United Nations Convention on the human rights of older persons should look like. Participants discussed the need for normative standards on the protection of older persons against violence, abuse and neglect, on equal recognition before the law, on the right to justice in older age, the right to long-term care and palliative care, the right to a full and effective participation in public and private life, autonomy and independence in older age, and the right to be protected against age discrimination. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea led the in-depth discussions using the zero draft convention, which they drafted last year, as framework.

NHRIs also recognized the role of Asia Pacific Forum of NHRIs (APF) and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) as being crucial to implement these commitments. NHRIs urged GANHRI along with the regional NHRI networks, particularly the APF for further involvement in this advocacy by providing greater support and endorsement of the activities of NHRIs on the rights of older persons, and the GANHRI Working Group on Ageing and the Human Rights of Older Persons, to which the Commission has been a member since its establishment in 2016.

Finally, NHRIs called on the United Nations General Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in its leadership role to resolve and recommend to the General Assembly the commencement of drafting a new United Nations Convention on the human rights of older persons.

The workshop was co-organized by the Commission with Commissioner Beda A. Epres, the Focal Commissioner on the Human Rights of Older Persons, and the International Obligations Monitoring Division, as lead, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), and the APF with generous funding support from NHRCK and the Governance in Justice (GoJust) Human Rights Project in the Philippines.