The ninth session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) will take place in 2018 in the United Nations Headquarters in New York (dates to be confirmed). In this ninth session, UN Member States will hold substantive discussions about specific areas of human rights where the protection of older people’s rights requires greater attention.
This will include further discussion around how the two focus areas discussed in the eighth session of the OEWG should be articulated in a new convention:
- Equality and non-discrimination
- Neglect, violence and abuse
The ninth session will also include substantive debate around two new focus areas:
- Long term and palliative care
- Independence and autonomy
This focus on a more substantive debate on specific areas of older people’s rights since the eighth session is a significant development in the OEWG process. It offers an important opportunity to build a stronger understanding and consensus among UN Member States about these specific areas of older people’s rights and how they might be addressed in a new international legal instrument.
In preparation for this ninth session, the UN Secretariat is expected to call very soon on ECOSOC and OEWG-accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide submissions on the four areas of human rights above. National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) with ‘A’ status and Member States will also receive a similar call for submissions. These submissions will be available on the official website following the deadline.
How can GAROP members engage in the OEWG process?
Be active at the national level between the sessions
- Even if you are not able to attend the session in New York, you can still support a more successful OEWG session through your activities in your country over the next few weeks. Governments’ policy positions are made in the capitals and national level advocacy is crucial. It will be important to focus discussions at national level on the two areas of rights to be debated in the ninth OEWG session – you can refer to the UN guiding questions for the eighth session here. You may find it helpful to refer to the written submissions for the eighth session (see here).
- Participate in the GAROP webinars about the focus areas of rights and how to engage in the OEWG process.
- Since December 2016, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) with ‘A’ status have been granted new participatory and accredited status in the OEWG. Some GAROP members in different regions have found that organising tripartite meetings at national level involving governments, NHRIs, and older people and NGOs is a very useful way of exchanging expertise, building a common understanding and ensuring that older people’s voices and experiences are at the heart of the process. If you are not familiar with NHRIs you can find out more, including about the NHRI in your country, on the Global Alliance of NHRIs website and directory: http://nhri.ohchr.org/EN/Contact/NHRIs/Pages/default.aspx
- You may find other useful tactics and ideas for your national level engagement in the Outcome Report from the NGO workshop that was held in New York last year ahead of the seventh session of the OEWG.
Inform your governments and encourage them to participate
- Encourage your government contacts to register and participate in the ninth session when the invitation arrives. You may need to make them aware that they will not receive any further formal invitation and that they should now plan their attendance and send instructions to their Permanent UN Missions in New York. You can play an important role in making sure that the information from the OEWG bureau reaches the right people in your governments in the capital in time for them to respond, as this does not always happen.
- You could urge them to consult older people, civil society and other key stakeholders in preparing any statements for the ninth OEWG session. You could encourage them to send an expert from the capitals to attend the session and ask them to include an older person or civil society representative in their government delegation.
- An inter-ministerial approach may be required at national level – for example it may be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry for Culture, Ministry of Social Services, and/or the Ministry of Interior, or others in your country that will be responsible for this issue.
What can GAROP members who are accredited the OEWG do?
In addition to the national level engagement outlined above, those GAROP members who already have OEWG accreditation can also:
Prepare early for your participation in New York
- For those OEWG-accredited members who will be attending the ninth OEWG session in New York, there are a number of things that you can do now to prepare for the session itself. Be mindful that speaking time at the session may be quite limited and therefore any oral interventions by NGOs should be focused on the specific areas of rights that have been identified. It is useful to start planning and researching these interventions in good time.
- Concise statements (2-3 minutes) that add substantive content and bring valuable evidence from your national experience about the two areas of rights are much more likely to have an impact on the debate and the wider process.
- Accredited organisations can also submit longer written documents, reports or studies, relevant to the specific items due to be discussed in advance of the next OEWG session and these will be shared on the official website.