The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) represented by its Commissioner for Women, Children, Older Persons, and Disability Rights, Rigbe Gebrehawaria, participated in the 14th sessions of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing held in New York from May 20–24, 2024.

This year’s session focused on the proposed intergovernmental negotiated recommendations submitted pursuant to the working group’s decision 13/1 of April 6, 2023. The decision aimed to identify potential shortcomings in safeguarding the human rights of older persons and explore effective ways to address them. As part of this endeavor, the Chair was asked to appoint two co-facilitators responsible for facilitating these discussions.

The recommendations were adopted during the 14th session of the working group on aging under decision 14/1. These recommendations emphasize addressing identified gaps related to equality, non-discrimination, violence, neglect, autonomy, long-term care, social protection, education, access to justice and more. ‘An international legally binding instrument to promote, protect and ensure the recognition and realization, on an equal basis, of all human rights of older persons’ was among the several proposed recommendations included in the decision.

The session also featured an interactive discussion on “Accessibility, infrastructure and habitat (transport, housing and access)” and “Participation in public life and decision-making processes”. The session also explored a possible international standard on the rights of older persons to “social inclusion” and the “right to health and access to health services”.

Commissioner Rigbe Gebrehawaria, during her statement on the recommendations adopted, underscored that international community’s efforts to strengthen the protection of older persons’ rights, demonstrated throughout numerous Working Group’s meetings over the years, have revealed the inadequacy of solely relying on existing measures. Many of the recommendations presented alternative options, but they too fell short. She urged member states to promptly opt for an internationally binding instrument which is crucial to ensuring equal rights protection for older persons, regardless of their geographical location or the presence of regional or national legal frameworks.

This assertion was also made during her statement on behalf of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NAHNRI) and 11 African national human rights institutions, highlighting the alignment of this initiative with the African Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons, awaiting entry into force.

The 14th session also featured another significant side event, titled “Bridging the Gap: National Human Rights Institutions Protecting and Upholding Older Persons’ Rights,” organized by Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). This event addressed the critical issue of human rights challenges faced by older persons. It aimed to raise global awareness, foster collaboration among diverse stakeholders and showcase successful initiatives that empower and protect their rights worldwide. Commissioner Rigbe, serving as a panelist at the event, discussed EHRC’s best practices in promoting and protecting the human rights of older persons. She emphasized EHRC’s efforts at national, regional, and international levels and highlighted the importance of a convention focused on the work of NHRIs.