Thank you Mrs. Chair,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its Member States.
The European Union welcomes the opening of the eleventh session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. This year's session takes place in extremely challenging times. It had a devastating impact on the lives of older persons. The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and disproportionately affected persons in vulnerable situations persons. They are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and they are particularly affected by socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, especially loneliness. The EU undertakes to ensure that all human rights, including the rights of older persons, remain at the core of the response to the pandemic and the global recovery.
This Working Group sessions- being the most prominent international forum- provide us with the opportunity to discuss how to foster solidarity between generations and older persons can fully enjoy their human rights and reach their full potential. We must take into consideration that the characteristics of ageing and the definition of the age at which someone is considered an older person vary in different societies.
The situation of older persons and the promotion and protection of their human rights remain high on the agenda of the European Union and its Member States. The EU strongly supports the broadest possible involvement of all actors, not only States but especially the inclusive participation of civil society organisations and National Human Rights Institutions. We need to work with all partners to strengthen global and national targeted responses, to address the needs and rights of older persons and foster more inclusive, equitable, resilient and age-friendly societies.
The EU also welcomes the 2020 Policy Brief of the United Nations Secretary-General on the impact of COVID-19 on older persons and its appeal for countries to promote responses to the pandemic based on the respect of the rights and dignity of older persons as well as global solidarity. In this Brief, the Secretary General also notes the need to strengthen the protection of human rights of older persons, including through the work of this Working Group. The same way, the EU welcomes the UNECE Guidelines on mainstreaming Ageing, prepared by the Standing Working Group on Ageing, and presented two weeks ago.
At the EU level, ageing is a priority for the current Trio-Presidency; in October 2020 the Council adopted conclusions on “Improving the well-being of older persons in the era of digitalisation”, putting forward a human-rights-based approach. In January, the Commission published the Green Paper on Ageing, kicking off a broad consultation process; Earlier in March 2021, the Commission published its action plan on the Pillar of Social Rights, addressing its outstanding principles, many of which also concern the wellbeing of older persons and the Council adopted Conclusions on “Mainstreaming Ageing in public policies” on March 12
The European Commission, for the first time in its history, has a dedicated Commissioner for equality, which encompasses the rights of older persons, while the vice-president on democracy and demography is tasked, inter alia, with ageing policy.
In the EU, ageing population is predominant demographic pattern in many Member States. The contribution of older persons to society, namely their experience, their knowledge, and their skills, is duly and increasingly acknowledged. Improved living conditions allow many to remain active much longer. Therefore, supporting healthy and active ageing is crucial for enabling all older persons to enjoy their rights and autonomy and to be able to fully, meaningfully and effectively participate in the society.
This year, the follow-up reports on the 2017 Ministerial Conference on Ageing in Lisbon, Portugal, on 'A sustainable society for all ages: Realizing the potential of living longer', will be submitted to UNECE and will include the stock taking of 20 years of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) and the last 5 years of Regional Implementation Strategy (RIS).
These recent developments illustrate the priority that the EU gives to the human rights of older persons and our capacity to make further advances. I would like to recall that the EU and its Member States fully support the work and the mandate of Ms Claudia Mahler, the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons. We are pleased about her role in the discussions this year. This year's report notes that the current instruments do not specifically address the issues of ageing or do not make them adequately visible. We will continue our active participation in the Open-Ended Working Group, just as we are also engaged in other multilateral discussions on the human rights of older persons, including in the third Committee of the UN General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council.
Older persons have heterogeneous needs and preferences, and face diverse challenges in the course of their lives, therefore we consider that the protection and promotion of the human rights of older persons require the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including civil society organisations.
This year, the high-level panel on “COVID-19 and the Rights of Older Persons” will give us an opportunity to have a broad exchange of views and to identify issues that need to be addressed as a priority, in order to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence.
We further strongly believe that older persons as agents of change must be included in the response to the COVID-19 and to building back better. In that sense, it is imperative to fully empower them.
I wish all of us a fruitful discussion with the aim of foreseeing a tangible progress in meeting the needs of older persons and the realisation of their human rights.
Thank you, Mrs. Chair.