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Live From New York: the IFA at the UN in August/September

IFA – Live from New York

Post by Dr. Sandra Timmermann (IFA UN Representative and Editor of Live From New York) and Frances Zainoeddin (IFA UN Representative).

Please e-mail Dr. Timmermann with any questions or comments.

While most volunteer leaders are off on summer vacations at the beach or the mountains, that wasn’t the case for the United Nations and the five UN IFA Representatives. They were taking the lead in three major events held in July and August—the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, the High Level Political Forum and a UN Department of Public Information-sponsored one-day event – and planning the UN International Day of Older Persons, to be held in October.

Baby Steps Forward, Some Backward, in Getting a Convention for the Rights of Older Persons
The USA once again opposed the movement to create a convention on the human rights of older persons at the Summer meeting of the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA), held July 5-7, 2017. That was no surprise to the UN IFA Team and others from the NGO Committee on Ageing and from the Global Alliance on the Rights of Older People and didn’t stop them from meeting with member states to gather more support for the idea.

The OEWGA was tasked this time to discuss two specific issues, on the basis of which possible elements could be included in a convention: (a) equality and non-discrimination and (b) violence, abuse and neglect. It became clear that while the general principle of equality and non-discrimination was included in most of national constitutions and national laws, in almost no case were there specific references to the right of equality of older persons and to non-discrimination on the basis of age.

With respect to violence, neglect and abuse (physical, financial, psychological, social, sexual, etc.), while there is not a whole lot of data mainly due to under-reporting and to a lack of standardized criteria and legal provisions for dealing with these violations, the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 6 persons aged 60 and over suffers from some sort of abuse. It was generally agreed that the current framework of international human rights law and human rights mechanisms make it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to report on and seek accountability for cases of violence, neglect and abuse against older persons.

According to Frances Zainoeddin, who is taking the lead for the UN IFA team in advocating for a convention, thereThere are perhaps 40-50 Member States that have shown support for an international legally binding instrument to protect the rights of older persons, and there are a few who are opposed. The vast majority needs some encouragement to participate in the discussions. The IFA team will be working hard to convince the undecideds to take a stand and support a convention, or at a minimum, not to oppose a convention!

The topics for the next session of the OEWGA will be (a) autonomy and independence and (b) long-term and palliative care. Watch this space for more information in the next couple of months.

High-Level Political Forum – a Whimper or a Bang?
The summer meeting of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which reviews implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), met from 10-19 July. Some described it as a talk-show, with little action. It discussed implementation of SDG1 (End poverty), SDG2 (End hunger), SDG3 (Ensure healthy lives), SDG5 (Achieve gender equality), SDG9 (Build resilient infrastructure), SDG14 (Oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) and SDG17 (Strengthen means of implementation). IFA, as a member of the Stakeholder Group on Ageing (established to provide a global voice for older persons everywhere in matters of sustainable development) signed onto an SGA position paper that addressed goals 1, 2, 3, 5 and 17. There were panels of eminent persons but it was not clear what outcomes or conclusions were reached. Voluntary national reports were presented by 43 countries but there was little time for dialogue. Many members of civil society felt that there was insufficient recognition of the role they played in efforts to leave no one behind. Some complained about government resistance to civil society participation in any shape, size or form, particularly at the national level and particularly on human rights issues. Member States are struggling to make the HLPF more effective in terms of providing policy direction and making action-oriented recommendations, but many Member States and NGOs moaned “The HLPF has no teeth!” IFA will be contributing to the SGA position paper on SDG 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) to be submitted to the HLPF in 2018.

For more information, visit

IFA Plays Key Role in Intergenerational All-Day UN Event

IFA Secretary General Jane Barratt spoke at a the morning and afternoon Dialogue Sessions on Healthy Living: Physical and Mental Wellness, focusing on the common concerns that both older and younger people have regarding affordable and accessible health care and nutrition. She commented on ways that communities can share resources so all generations can benefit and encouraged younger and older people to work together.

The all-day event, Intergenerational Dialogues on the Sustainable Development Goals, was sponsored by the NGO Department of Public Information and held on August 1, 2017. It brought 1,000 younger and older registrants together to engage in interactive dialogues on Health, Innovation, Employment, Climate, Gender Equity, and Poverty, with the goal of creating partnerships to implement the SDGs. UN Representative Sandra Timmermann served on the NGO DPI Planning Committee for the event and also was invited to speak as the Civil Society Representative in Ageing at the Closing Plenary. She talked about growing older from both a professional and personal perspective, described how older people have a developmental need to give back no matter what their circumstances as well as the talent and wisdom to do it, and challenged both young and old to get rid of the stereotypes and work together for common purpose.

2017 UN International Day of Older Persons Speakers Announced
Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of, will keynote the International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) this year, to be held on October 5, 1:30-4:30pm. In keeping with the theme, Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents and Participation of Older Persons, he will address how older people can transform society by using their skills and following their passions to make a difference in communities throughout the world. Three panelists will also address the theme, including:

  • Frank Leyhausen, General Manager, MedCom International, who will discuss involving older people through technology
  • Elizabeth Isele, Founder and CEO, Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship, who will address facilitating entrepreneurship among older persons
  • Livingstone B. Byekwaso, Executive Director, SAWAKA, Tanzania, who will speak on promoting civic involvement.

“In addition, we are happy to announce that the highlights of the World Population Ageing Report 2017 will be released at UNIDOP this year,” said Sandra Timmermann, UN IFA Representative and Co-Chair of the event. “We are also pleased that Craig Mokhiber, Director, Deputy for the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, OHCHR, has graciously agreed to serve as the moderator.” UNIDOP is organized by the NGO Committee on Ageing. Registration will open in September and it is open to all interested persons. UN Representative Valerie Levy is chairing the reception which follows the event.

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