We live in a deeply ageist world where we are marginalised, excluded, discriminated against and denied our rights because of our age. Many older people are denied opportunities to work once they reach a given age, regardless of their ability to carry out the duties. They are subjected to violence. They are denied access to healthcare that is appropriate to their needs. Existing human rights mechanisms fail to adequately protect and promote the rights of older people, leaving them vulnerable to these risks.
HelpAge International encourages and supports network members to advocate for a United Nations convention on the rights of older persons with their governments through engaging in the UN Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) process.
We provide briefing papers, information about how the OEWG process works from our experiences over the years, and toolkits for Age Demands Action campaigns, which has a focus on OEWG as part of their key messages. We encourage global network members to join the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP), which, with HelpAge technical and financial support, enhances civil society's engagement with UN member states and national human rights institutions to work towards a convention. And we help network members to register for the OEWG, submit written information on the topics being discussed and participate in the sessions.
We strongly believe that national-level civil society advocacy works. Progress at the OEWG is being driven by civil society, helping to generate recent support for a convention from the governments of Mauritius, Nigeria and Cameroon. The convention is a common goal and an opportunity to influence and make an impact.
What we did to improve our advocacy
We have had impact so far, but when network members requested support to run national campaigns and and for materials they could use locally, we had an idea: the FAIR guidelines
These were developed in 2018 as a tool for those network members and other civil society organisations interested in campaigning for a convention. With the network's guidance and consultation, we developed the guidelines to improve advocacy effectiveness, ensuring that the content was tested by those who would be using them.
The end result are guidelines that provide four "steps" to take to work towards a convention, with practical tips and clear milestones:
Find out a government’s position to help understand what key information is needed to begin the advocacy journey.
Argue a case to governments about how a UN convention would transform older people’s lives. This step provides effective ways to explain why we need a convention, including arguments governments might use against a convention and ways to counter them.
Involve older people to be effective advocates for their rights. They speak from experience and their voice can be very powerful. This step is about exploring different ways to engage with older people and work together with them to build a case.
Review progress to take stock of events from time to time. The guidelines provide some tips on how to track progress and whether plans need adjusting.
What impact did the FAIR guidelines have?
Fifty-one network members and partners have now registered and can officially participate in the OEWG process, up from 38 in 2018. Eleven attended and 20 made written submissions to the OEWG session in April 2019, compared to five and 10 in 2018, respectively.
We will continue to encourage global network and GAROP members and ADA partners to use the FAIR guidelines, including through the 8,000 recipients of our campaign newsletter. The FAIR guidelines will be under ongoing review to ensure they remain fresh and relevant.
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