Statement of the Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, at the occasion of the 26th International Day of Older Persons – 1st October 2016

    Banjul, The Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa (the Working Group) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) celebrates this 1st October 2016, the 26th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP).

    The Working Group applauds the theme “Take a Stand Against Ageism” of this 26th edition of the IDOP as it tackles a common widespread habit within societies, which hinders gravely the rights of Older Persons.

    Ageism, in relation to Older Persons, is defined as stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their advanced age.

    The Working Group notes that, though traditionally Older Persons are given a prime place in African societies, there are still pockets of manifestation of ageism in Africa. The association of Older Persons with witchcraft or other unnatural practices or beliefs, and the perception that Older Persons are a burden to society and are useless are but examples. The said stereotypes often lead to serious abuses and violations of the human rights of Older Persons and it is imperative that comprehensive actions are taken to combat ageism through sensitization and mechanisms that deter ageism and offer full protection to Older Persons, including compensation.

    The Working Group is proud to have been associated with drafting the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa (the Protocol) which addresses exclusively the rights of Older Persons, including their protection against discrimination based on their advanced age, and their protection against harmful traditional practices or societal negative stereotypes. The draft Protocol received the full support of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and, following its adoption during the 26th African Union Summit which took place from 21st to 31st January 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is now opened to ratification by Member States of the African Union. The entry in force of this treaty will be an achievement in the struggle to uphold rights of Older Persons in Africa and ensure that they are fully protected from the violation of their rights.  Moreover because, considering the pervasiveness of ageism, provisions that enjoin State Parties to raise awareness of “younger population groups on ageing and Older Persons, especially to combat negative attitudes against them”, have been included in the Protocol; and the Working Group commends this.

    The Working Group encourages Older Persons themselves to play an important role in combatting ageism and to reject the tempting attitude of passivity in relation to ageism; and should send clear message to their respective communities and State Parties that, far from being a burden to society, they are in fact the repository of experience and wisdom and are immeasurable assets to humanity.

    The Working Group appreciates the efforts of all stakeholders that are tirelessly striving to ensure that Older Persons enjoy, without hindrance, all their human rights in the same way as other age groups in society.

    While reaffirming its unwavering commitment to continue the promotion and protection of the rights of Older Persons, the Working Group urges State Parties to ratify the Protocol so that it becomes fully operational.

    The Working Group wishes to all Old Persons and their families or care-givers, a happy 26th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons.   

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      Date: 03 October 2016

      Commissioners: Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen

      Special Mechanism: Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities

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