Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Perhaps a new treaty on the rights of older persons?

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee approved a resolution Monday (Nov 27th) to begin the work on a new draft treaty on the rights and dignity of older persons.  The approval vote gives some indication of how ambivalent states feel about a new human rights treaty -- the 11th treaty if things progress to a final result.  The vote was 53 for, 3 against, and 109 abstentions.  The resolution (L.9 rev.1) now goes to the full General Assembly where it is expected to be adopted as part of the Third Committee "package" of resolutions. No further debate is expected.

The resolution calls for a working group to be established to consider the elements and advisability that might go into a possible treaty.  An earlier draft of the resolution had called for the first draft treaty text by next fall, but that language has been softened in this final resolution to simply ask for a report on progress from the working group by next fall.

The issue of course is whether the system has room for yet another treaty body.  Without additional resources the addition of another body puts the squeeze on the existing committees.  More must get by with even less.  Yet it is also apparent that a separate treaty dedicated to a particular group's rights tends to focus attention more on that group than if it is simply a small part of other treaty mandates.  This idea of creating a treaty dedicated to older persons has been percolating along for some time now, with renewed focus coming out of the Second World Assembly on Ageing held in Madrid in 2002.

So the debate will surely continue on how best to build a robust treaty system that can make room for new members like a treaty on the rights and dignity of older persons, while at the same time growing organically and strengthening its existing structures.  Stay tuned.

Here is a link to the text of the resolution. 

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