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Strong Indigenous Rights Perspective Needed In Strengthening Older People’s Rights

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission will join other Asia-Pacific national human rights institutions at the ‘Advancing the human rights of older persons in the Asia-Pacific’ workshop in Manila, Philippines, on 29-30 August 2023.

The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest ageing region in the world.[1] This workshop is part of an international movement for greater recognition and protection of older people's rights, including through the development of a new international treaty.

“We support strengthening the international framework, and by participating in this workshop hope to ensure any new convention builds on existing human rights standards, including those on indigenous rights,” says Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga Disability Rights Commissioner Prudence Walker.

“A human rights treaty on the rights of older persons would help to address the human rights challenges that older people in Aotearoa New Zealand experience.”

A number of recent reports have called attention to the need for strengthening the human rights of older people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Retirement Commissioner’s 2022 Review of Retirement Policies highlighted the inequitable situation many older Māori experience now and, in the future, and pointed to the detrimental effect that colonisation, structural inequality, and land loss has had.

Following her visit to New Zealand in 2020, UN independent expert on the rights of older persons Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, called for action to address the number of older persons facing material hardship, elder abuse, and structural biases in the health care system, particularly biases towards older Māori and Pasifika persons.

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"The Commission supports an Older Persons Convention in principle but would look to ensure that in the development of any new treaty, indigenous rights are upheld, strengthened, and that nothing would overlook or contradict rights held under the United National Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)."

Walker noted the potential for developing a convention that recognised intersectional issues faced by indigenous older people, as well as older persons that face discrimination on grounds such as sexual orientation and disability.

The workshop will set out recent developments towards an older persons’ treaty and discuss a draft Convention which the South Korea Human Rights Commission has developed.

Dr Esther Woodbury, Lead Advisor Disability Rights Team, is representing the Commission, alongside fellow National Human Rights Institutes experts from around the Asia Pacific region, older people’s organisations, academics and other international experts.

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