Statement of Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons – 11th Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing | 29-31 March 2021

Statement of Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons – 11th Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing | 29-31 March 2021

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, together with National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organizations across the globe will engage and meet with UN Member States at the 11th Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) to deliberate once again on the normative and substantive elements for a binding international convention on the rights of older persons. The OEWGA session this year, 2021, comes at time of greater global challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some Member States are in the UN Headquarters in New York physically meeting at limited capacity, the virtual presence of NHRIs and civil society for this session are much stronger, louder, and visible to advance the advocacy for the zero draft on the international treaty on the rights of older persons.

International human rights treaties play a pivotal role in shaping national laws, policies, programs, services, and attitudes that affect the lives and rights of older persons. Although the standard setting treaties, such as the International Covenants of Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, apply to all persons regardless of age, there is a need for a specific international law that focuses on the application of international standards to the experiences and realities of older persons around the world and to the ageing process.

As pointed out in numerous meetings, webinars and sessions, including the OEWGA, there are normative, implementation, information, and monitoring gaps in the international human rights system on the rights of older persons. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government restrictions magnified these gaps. The response to the pandemic that excluded older persons’ issues and concerns and their participation from decision-making exacerbated the human rights situations and violations against older persons.

The best way to address these gaps is through the adoption of a convention within the UN human rights system that defines the specific rights of older persons and the corresponding obligations of duty-bearers, considering older persons’ lived realities and specific contexts brought about by advanced age. Such a binding instrument provides clear baselines and standards that serve to guide the crafting of better national laws and policies. A treaty also creates monitoring, reporting, and accountability mechanisms at the national and international levels. It facilitates the allocation of budget at the national level and the assignment of specific government agencies or units that will focus on the work to ensure the respect, protection, and fulfillment of the rights of older persons.

The Philippine Government is at the forefront of supporting the call for a binding instrument on the rights of older persons. The Commission fully supports this initiative which will aid in ensuring the respect, protection, and fulfillment of the rights of older persons, including their equality with others and non-discrimination; the prevention of and protection of older persons from ageism and other human rights violations; promote their rights and welfare; and provide access to remedies and justice. A binding instrument shall help ensure that the dignity of older persons is upheld at all times.