The Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Rights of Older Persons, approved in June, establishes measures to protect human rights including the right to health and to healthy aging. At least two countries must ratify the accord for it to enter into force.

Washington, D.C., 3 September 2015 (PAHO/WHO) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) today called on countries in the Americas to implement the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Rights of Older Persons, which strengthens protections for the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of older persons, including the right to health.

Currently there are some 150 million people over age 60 in the Americas, and this number is expected to grow to 200 million by the year 2020. In Latin America and the Caribbean, nearly 50% of older persons lack sufficient resources to finance their daily needs, presenting a major challenge for countries and societies to ensure their health and well-being.

The convention, which was approved on June 15 by the 45th OAS General Assembly, establishes specific protection measures in areas including the right to health, social security, work, housing, information on medical treatment, and palliative care, and against discrimination and abuse. It is the world's first international treaty on protecting the human rights of older people.

"The Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Rights of Older Persons will help our Region overcome many of the challenges it continues to face in the area of active and healthy aging," said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne during an event today at PAHO headquarters in Washington, D.C. She urged governments, international and civil society organizations, and other partners to "redouble their efforts to promote and protect the human rights and well-being of the 150 million people aged 60 and over who live in the Region of the Americas."

"We are calling on Member States to become signatories to this important convention," said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. "We must join forces as a hemisphere to ensure that we provide the necessary support for older adults to be able to fully exercise their rights. The convention will provide more visibility to issues related to aging and strengthen legal obligations to respect, promote and realize the rights of older persons."

Five countries of the Americas—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay—have signed the convention. To enter into force, at least two states parties must ratify it.

Sandra Huenchuan, ECLAC specialist on aging, said countries' approval of the convention two months ago shows serious commitment and called for efforts to put it into practice. "This convention is an invaluable tool for ensuring that current and future generations of older people enjoy a good old age."

In their call to action, representatives of PAHO, the OAS and ECLAC urged governments, international agencies, academia, civil society and human rights organizations to work along five lines of action:

  • Disseminating and promoting the convention and educating people about its provisions
  • Helping governments to carry out participatory consultations on the convention
  • Strengthening the inclusion of issues related to older persons in the work of other agencies of the inter-American and United Nations systems
  • Facilitating closer collaboration among partner organizations to provide training for government officials on the convention's provisions
  • Encouraging the international community to support national initiatives that address healthy aging and that provide information to older adults about their human rights.

As part of a panel of experts who emphasized the importance of countries' adopting and implementing the convention, Ideli Salvatti, special advisor to the OAS secretary general on access to rights and equity, said the convention is a tool for promoting public policies that protect the rights of older persons effectively. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, a United Nations independent expert, said the convention addresses the need for specific protection of the human rights of older persons.

Key provisions

PAHO has been collaborating with the OAS working group in this area since 2011 to draft the new convention. Among its key provisions are:

  • Member States shall take measures to prevent, punish and eradicate practices such as isolation, abandonment, prolonged physical restraints, overcrowding, denial of nutrition, and inadequate medical treatments, among others.
  • Countries should take steps so that public and private institutions offer non-discriminatory access to comprehensive care to older persons, including palliative care, avoiding isolation, properly managing problems related to fear of death among the terminally ill, and avoiding pain and unnecessary suffering.
  • Older persons have the undeniable right to express their free and informed consent in health.
  • Member States should design measures so that older persons can enjoy their right to a comprehensive care system that will provide the protection and promotion of health, coverage of social services, nutrition and food security, among other issues.
  • To ensure that older persons have the right to enjoy a life without any kind of violence and abuse, so countries take action on the matter.
  • Age discrimination is banned.

Countries also need to implement inter-sectorial health policies to provide comprehensive care, including health promotion, prevention, care and management of diseases during all stages, and the rehabilitation and palliative care of older persons so that they can enjoy the highest level of well-being.

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PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.

Links

Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Rights of Older Persons 
PAHO celebrates the commitment of the countries of the Americas to protect the human rights of older persons
— PAHO / Healthy Adults