IACHR: Aging with Dignity is a Human Right in the Americas and the Caribbean

October 1, 2023

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Washington, D.C. - On the International Day of Older Persons, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) underlined the importance of recognizing the human rights of older people and the obligation to guarantee them a dignified and autonomous old age with access to social security. The IACHR encourages all OAS Member States to accede to the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons.

In recent years, efforts to highlight the importance of respecting and guaranteeing the rights of older people in the Americas and the Caribbean have become a matter of international public policy. In 2017, the IACHR created the Unit on the Rights of Older Persons, which was made a thematic rapporteurship in 2019, with the intention of strengthening its institutional capacity.

The OAS has made significant efforts in the same direction. In 2015, it adopted the Convention on Older Persons, which entered into force in 2017 and to which Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay are parties. The IACHR has called for all countries to ratify this convention.

With regard to the rights of older persons, the Convention is the most transformative instrument in the history of the region. Its main contribution is the paradigm shift it brings by establishing that the older people are subjects of law with special needs and that these are international human rights obligations. The core concept that runs through the entire Convention is treating old age as a natural stage of life and an inherent part of the human process of aging, thus breaking the stigma surrounding it and seeking to guarantee dignity.

As part of its work to defend and promote the rights of older persons, the IACHR adopted its first thematic report on the matter this year. The report, "The Human Rights of Older Persons and National Protection Systems," analyzes States' international obligation to ensure that these systems meet the needs of older people and guarantee their rights to equality and nondiscrimination, independence, autonomy, healthcare and informed consent, participation in community life, accessibility and personal mobility, freedom of expression, access to information, food, housing, water, and sanitation, social security, physical integrity and freedom from violence, and access to justice.

However, a number of challenges remain to be addressed, including the elimination of age discrimination and the generation of information to enable States to make evidence-based policy decisions that adequately protect the rights of older persons.

The new focus on comprehensive protection for the elderly and the demographic growth in this group are putting greater pressure on the social security and health care systems. The challenges that this poses for States and civil society organizations include the institutional coordination of protection systems for older people and the financing of sufficient policies and programs to guarantee the effective enjoyment of their rights.

On the International Day of Older Persons, the IACHR calls on States to adopt effective public policies to address these challenges and ensure that people can live a dignified old age.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 233/23

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