International Conference on Ageing – Ageing: Rights for Empowerment

Brdo pri Kranju, 11 – 12 April 2016 – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, in collaboration with Bled Strategic Forum, held an International Conference on Ageing under the title Ageing: Rights for Empowerment. The conference has attracted wide range of participants, from the region and beyond, including representatives of international organisations and the civil society. The Conference on the rights of older people marks the beginning of the Ministry’s EU campaign #EU4HUMANRIGHTS.

By holding the Conference, the Ministry joined the Slovenian Government’s comprehensive approach to meeting the challenges related to the rapid ageing of the population through an emerging strategy for active ageing. In the international community, Slovenia advocates a progressive approach. In this spirit, the aim of the Conference is to identify good practices and reveal ways to implement them better at the international level as well. Slovenia is striving to enhance international norms and standards, and supports the further codification of international human rights law.

In his address, Minister Erjavec pointed out demographic changes and the ageing population as two major challenges facing the entire international community. He presented a range of activities related to the rights of older persons that Slovenia implements in the framework of the UN Human Rights Council, the EU and OECD. Slovenia underlines the importance of respect for the existing legal norms protecting the elderly from discrimination, violence and abuse. At the same time, Slovenia is actively encouraging states to formulate and adopt a new international legal instrument clearly defining the specific rights and needs of the elderly, as well as mechanisms to protect them.

The participants were also addressed by the Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD Douglas Frantz, who stressed that international organisations, governments and civil society should create circumstances enabling respect for the rights of the elderly. Society should make it possible for the elderly to remain active and contributing members as long as possible, with state-guaranteed equal access to the labour market and to high-quality and affordable health care.

This was followed by a video message from the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, in which he stressed the importance of wider human rights advocacy on the part of the EU and its member states, and pointed out Slovenia’s leading role with regard to the rights of older persons. By organising the Conference, Slovenia is the first EU member state to join the #EU4HUMANRIGHTS campaign.

Keynote speaker Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, started her speech by thanking the organisers for the first international conference dealing with the rights of the elderly during her term. She underlined how important it is to identify shortcomings and problems in the implementation or enjoyment of the rights of older persons. In September, Ms Kornfeld-Matte will present her comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council, noting a positive trend regarding care for the elderly in the legislative framework, including access to employment and work above the legal retirement age. However, in Kornfeld-Matte’s opinion, more should be done to improve the qualifications and position of informal care takers of the elderly, as well as with regard to legal capacity, decision-making and challenges faced by people suffering from dementia and other chronic diseases or conditions related to ageing.

The conference continued with a panel entitled “The promotion and protection of rights of older persons: state of play”, and on the second day with the panel entitled”The promotion and protection of rights of older persons: a way forward”.