Older men and women have the same rights as everyone else: we are all born equal and this does not change as we grow older. Even so, older people's rights are mostly invisible under international law.
Despite the existence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,1 older people are not recognised explicitly under the international human rights laws that legally oblige governments to realise the rights of all people. Only one international human rights convention (The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families) mandates against age discrimination. Commitments to the rights of older people exist, such as with the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA). However, they are not legally binding and therefore only impose a moral obligation on governments to implement them.
A UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons is necessary to ensure that older women and men can realise their rights. With a new UN convention, and the assistance of a Special Rapporteur, governments can have an explicit legal framework, guidance and support that would enable them to ensure that older people's rights are realised in our increasingly ageing societies.
Demographic change is resulting in unprecedented numbers of older people worldwide. Greater numbers of people will be affected directly by age discrimination and ageism, thereby increasing pressures on governments and society as a whole to respond. Strengthening older people's human rights is the best single response.
While UN conventions are agreed by governments, support cannot be built without the backing and advocacy of older people. Civil society organisations play a key role in making this happen and in holding governments to account for the decisions they make. This is why we need you to be involved.