Africa Regional High-Level Conference : Excerpts of conference declaration and call for action

The Federal Republic of Nigeria co-hosted the African Regional High Level Conference on the Situation of Human Rights of Older Persons in Africa from 25 to 26 November 2019 in Abuja, with the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, Stakeholder Group on Ageing - Africa (SGA-Africa), Africa Union Commission, Federal Ministry of Health (HEPIQ-C) Nigeria, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Network of African National Human Rights Institutions, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The event brought together ministers, members of parliaments and senior representatives from 22 African countries, development partners, UN entities, academia, NGOs and older persons representatives. 

DIS-MOI (Droits Humains dans l'océan Indien) participated in the one-year preparation of this Conference in its capacity as a Steering Committee Member of SGA-Africa.

Participants in the conference:

  • Take note that the number of older persons in Africa between 2017 and 2050 is expected to grow with a projected 229 percent increase from 69 million to 226 million, a cause for celebration that is the result of improved healthcare and nutrition, better education and stronger economies.
  • Recognize that there are more older women than men, both in Africa and globally.
  • Bear in mind that the rapid population ageing and increased longevity requires longer-term planning that will ensure societies are able to cope and prepare for the opportunities that longer life expectancy brings. 
  • Recognize the significant efforts made by various countries in Africa to protect the rights of older persons, including through the adoption of national development plans and other policies for older persons. 
  • Note that Africa has the highest proportion of economically active people over the age of 65 in the world, contributing to society in many ways as farmers, enterprises and mentors, professional personnel in different fields, care givers, among others. 
  • Further recognize that the experience of ageing is diverse, with older persons facing multiple and intersecting levels of discrimination and inequality.
  • Recognize with concern that older persons can also be among the most vulnerable in society and among those who are furthest left behind. Ageing can be characterized by increased risk of ill-health and disability.
  • Understand that a person’s health can be improved at any age and that healthy ageing can help increase older persons’ full participation in society for the benefit of all.
  • Recognize that factors such as weakened family and community structures due to migration, conflict, natural disasters, climate change, urbanization and the impact of HIV and AIDS can create obstacles to older persons’ full participation in society and the enjoyment of their human rights. 

Participants at the conference recognize that:

  • Human Rights are universal and do not change as one gets older. 
  • Member States have fundamental responsibility for upholding, protecting and promoting the rights of older persons, including eliminating social and cultural stereotypes against older persons. 
  • International human rights laws and mechanisms, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other human rights conventions establish that human rights are for all, including older persons. 
  • The ratification of the African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa, adopted in 2016, is urgently needed with only 14 countries to date having signed the Protocol, and only two having ratified. 15 ratifications are needed for the AU protocol to come into force. 
  • The African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa and on-going discussion on the need for a UN convention on the rights of older persons provide important opportunities for ensuring older persons enjoy their full rights and freedoms on an equal basis with others.

Participants at the Conference agree that:

  • National legislation and policies need to be adopted in line with international and regional human rights standards to protect the human rights of older persons, through ensuring the eradication of all forms of discrimination against older persons, protecting them against abuse, and clearly stipulating obligations of the family and the State in line with human rights legal frameworks/standards.
  • Member States should urgently establish cross-sector and multi-stakeholder mechanisms at national and regional levels to enhance coordination and partnerships that help ensure progress on the implementation of the human rights of older persons in the areas of civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights with the view to improving social protection of older persons.
  • Member states should integrate the human rights of older persons in their reporting and implementation of all relevant international human rights treaties to which they are signatories.
  • There is a need for increased investment in institutional and human resource capacity to address the rights and needs of older persons, including the collection of disaggregated data. 
  • A bi-annual conference on human rights of older persons under the auspices of the African Union in collaboration with national human rights institutions and other stakeholders should be institutionalized.
  • Greater investment in reliable long-term funding for ageing and older persons issues and rights in national budgets and in those of development partners is necessary.
  • Efforts to promote gender equity across the lifecycle need to be enhanced, including by: reducing gendered barriers to schooling, enabling women to enter/reenter the labor force, increasing their employment and earnings in the formal sector, recognizing the unpaid labor of women of all ages, expanding access to formal child and elder care services to promote women’s ability to remain working, including into older age, and securing rights on access to property. 
  • Developing age-friendly cities and communities that respond to the abilities of older persons and people of all ages.
  • Humanitarian responses must be inclusive of older persons and provide age-appropriate support.
  • Establishing and strengthening comprehensive and integrated family and community level care with primary care systems for geriatric care services to prolong the healthy life of older persons’ helping them remain productive, independent and autonomous.  
  • African member states should ensure the commitment to leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind, focusing on the protection of the human rights of older persons, including through guaranteeing free and affordable health care services/health insurance to all older persons. 
  • Ensure the rights of older persons are included in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals, including the gathering and analysis of disaggregated data on older persons.
  • African Member States should promote the rights of older persons with all countries across the African Union, and wherever international policy is being made – beginning with the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2020.
  • Governments should urgently ratify and implement the AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa.
  • African Member States should fully participate in and strengthen the work of the OEWGA and commit to drafting a binding international human rights legal instrument to protect the human rights of older persons.


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