People's Stories Equality

The fundamental rights of older people need to be better protected
by FRA, HelpAge International, agencies
Older people''s experiences of care and support must be heard, by Ellie Parravani
For a convention on older people''s rights to be strong and effective, it must reflect older people''s experiences across the world. This means we must make sure that older people are listened to every step of the way.
This July, member states and civil society organisations will get together at the 9th United Nations Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG). There they will talk about older people''s rights to long-term care and support, palliative care, and autonomy and independence, and how they should be framed in any new instrument on the rights of older people, such as a convention.
When the themes for 9th OEWG were announced, we set out to explore older people''s experiences of these rights. HelpAge International''s network members across the world held focus groups with 450 older people who talked about the availability of long-term care and palliative care in their communities, and what the barriers are in accessing them.
From Argentina to Zambia, many older people said they had little access to or control over the care and support services they need to live independent lives. And they said palliative care services are hard to access or, in many cases, do not exist at all.
Long-term care and support services are inaccessible and unaffordable
Long-term care and support are the services and assistance people receive to support with daily tasks like eating, washing, getting dressed or going out. In older age, these kinds of services are important to maintain other rights, including the freedom to live autonomously and independently.
Older people in every region told us that long-term care and support services are limited and unaffordable to everyone except those with high incomes. The types of care and support available varies, but often family members are the only providers.
"There are no support services available to older people in my community. Only family members are taken as or believed to provide assistance with daily activities. But this does not happen for all," said a 71-year-old woman in Nepal.
The lack of care and support services forces older people to be dependent on family members, what they can provide may not be adequate to meet a person''s needs. For instance, in Serbia, one man said he has a lot of say over the care and support he receives, but what his relatives can actually do is limited.
But family members may not respect an older person''s autonomy. This denies them their independence. A 68-year-old woman in Nigeria told us: "Since my son has brought me to live in their apartment in the city, I do not have a say anymore. Sometimes I am locked in my room".
Many participants said they have little choice over the types of care and support they receive, and sometimes do not trust the quality of those available. In the Philippines, one group concluded that "current programmes or provisions of the Government are unfit and incompatible or inappropriate for the needs of older persons". Older people should have the right to care and support in the setting of their choosing and from a provider they have picked.
Palliative care remains unknown to many
Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of a person going through a life-threatening illness. It aims to relieve pain and help patients with any psychological, social or spiritual needs.
Older people often said this concept was completely new to them. Many explained that there were no services of this type in their community, or at least there were none they knew of. In Russia, one group revealed they were unaware of these services and that "everything falls on the shoulders of relatives". And in Moldova, another group said "we didn''t even know such services exist in our country or elsewhere".
For those who knew about palliative care, older people identified high costs, lack of information and medical staff''s negative attitudes as the main barriers in accessing them. Poor quality services and long distances between their home and those services were also mentioned too.
The rights to long-term care and support and palliative care are not clearly articulated in international human rights law anywhere.
Ultimately, we need a convention articulating that older people have the right to these types of care and support without any kind of discrimination . Right now, our Age Demands Action campaigners are out there advocating for these rights. They are using the results of the Freedom to decide for ourselves report to call on governments to listen to what older people in their countries are saying and to attend the Open-ended Working Group in July.
The fundamental rights of older people need to be better protected. (EU Fundamental Rights Agency)
Nearly 60% of Europeans consider being old a disadvantage when looking for work. Societies often view older people as burdens. Too often we overlook the basic human rights of our older people. This year, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in its 2018 Fundamental Rights Report explores how a rights-based approach towards respect for older people is starting to happen.
“Fundamental rights are not just for the young. They protect everyone regardless of age,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “We need to do a better job of protecting the older members of our communities. It’s high time to translate political commitments into tangible actions. We must stand up for the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of older people.”
This year’s Fundamental Rights Report dedicates its focus chapter to equal treatment for older people and respect for their fundamental rights. It recognises growing awareness of the issue and how policies are changing to better respect their rights. However, it advises against a one-size-fits-all approach as barriers faced by women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities may be compounded as they age. It also warns how young people today may face difficulties in later life if their education is poor and they cannot find work.
It underlines the need to broaden protection against discrimination on the grounds of age by adopting the EU’s Equal Treatment Directive that extends anti-discrimination protection beyond employment to access to services, housing and healthcare, etc. It also suggests making better use of EU funds to promote inclusion and equal treatment for older people.
* Access the report via the link below:

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Confronting the two faces of Racism: Resurgent Hate and Structural Discrimination
by UN Office for Human Rights
March 2018
Globally, racial equality is under attack. Vile discourses of explicit hate and ideologies of racial supremacy have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Today, racial, ethnic and religious bigotry fuels human rights violations, including extreme violence against minorities, and against refugees, migrants, stateless persons, and internally displaced, with a particularly acute effect on women, and sexual and gender diverse populations.
This bigotry is unashamed. From crowds of youths marching to neo-Nazi chants in Charlottesville, Warsaw, and Berlin, to the racist and xenophobic attitudes of politicians in the highest levels of office world-wide; from the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, to the excessive use of military force to police communities of African descent in different parts of the world—the assault on the human dignity of millions around the world has reached alarming proportions.
The escalation of explicit racism and xenophobia makes celebration of the International Day Against Racism all the more important, especially in this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the year in which Nelson Mandela would have celebrated his 100th birthday.
This day calls for unity locally, nationally, and globally in the affirmation of principles of human dignity, substantive equality, and non-discrimination. Significantly, this day should also serve as a reminder that the problem of racism today remains larger and deeper than the shocking manifestations that are now common-place in the media and even in mainstream national political discourses.
The fight against racial discrimination must be understood and waged at a structural level, even in the current alarming climate, which risks training global attention solely on the most explicit and individual occasions of discrimination and intolerance.
It is vital that states, civil society organizations, social movements and activists devote renewed energy and attention to the structural drivers of racial inequality, including, as recognized by the Durban Declaration, those rooted in the history and legacy of slavery and colonialism. At the same time, urgent global attention must also be paid to the structural economic, political and legal conditions that facilitate misplaced racial resentment and xenophobic scapegoating by national populations that perceive minorities and non-nationals as existential threats.
For those committed to advancing human rights, this means taking seriously the grievances and economic marginalization of those that have been most harmed by globalized neoliberal policies that protect capital and neglect labor. It also means confronting the fact that the rise of populist nationalism has at least as much to do with widespread loss of faith in establishment politics that privilege elites, as it has to do with the offensive, xenophobic rhetoric of extremist ideologues.
This is especially evident in the context of backlash in different regions of the world to refugees and involuntary migrants, where gaps in existing international legal frameworks combine with short-sighted national policies to reinforce chaotic and dangerous movements. This chaos heightens anti-migrant anxieties.
Human rights campaigns promoting cohesion in a broader context of escalating migration restrictions will not work. Combatting discrimination against migrants (and all other groups) requires structural reforms that incentivize cohesion, and that make this cohesion a fundamental logic of government policy and private sector involvement in any given community or society.
It is incumbent on states, including through the ongoing negotiations for the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees, respectively, to provide legal pathways for migration and to take the other concrete steps necessary to create an international framework that prioritizes substantive equality for all.
States and other actors must also remain vigilant and redouble their efforts with respect to addressing structural manifestations of racial discrimination and inequality, all of which are prohibited under international human rights law. Putting an end to racial profiling by law enforcement agents is just as urgent as putting an end to violent hate crimes perpetrated by private actors.
Denouncing xenophobic Muslim bans implemented through immigration policies that rely on offensive and flawed assumptions about entire religious groups, is just as urgent as denouncing explicit Islamophobic or anti-Semitic statements made by political leaders.
Putting an end to the forced displacement and cultural extinction of racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples that results from government- and multinational corporation-driven extraction and construction projects, is just as urgent as addressing the resurgence of neo-Nazism.
There should be no compromises in the pursuit of racial equality today. The world cannot afford to ignore any dimension of the problem of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, and especially not the forces that do the effective work of structurally subordinating groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status.
Resurgent hate, and the structural racial and xenophobic discrimination that operates alongside it threaten more than the specific groups that are their direct target. As High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein recently cautioned: “We are growing accustomed to the stoking of hatred for political profit…. Cultivation of a siege mentality among majority populations is a marker of today''s ethno-populism. It creates a sense of overwhelming grievance, with an indicated outlet for that rage. And it shores up power.”
Extremism and systemic racial exclusion threaten the very political and legal foundations of every single state that forms a part of our international order.
An important purpose of the International Day Against Racism, is to create a platform for states to recommit to upholding the fundamental principles of human rights and to guaranteeing substantive equality to all, by eliminating all forms of discrimination intersecting with racial discrimination, including discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, citizenship and any other social category that is traditionally deployed to systemically subordinate groups in society. The time for action is now.

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