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Countries of the Region Reaffirm Commitment to Promote, Protect and Respect Older Persons’ Human Rights, Dignity and Freedoms
Representatives of the countries participating in the Fifth Regional Intergovernmental Conference on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean, which concluded today in Santiago, Chile, reaffirmed their commitment to promote, protect and respect the human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms of all older persons, without discrimination or violence of any kind, and ratified the responsibility of States to pursue the measures and actions needed to ensure healthy ageing, with dignity and rights.
In the Santiago Declaration, approved unanimously, the authorities also renewed their commitment to the Madrid International Plan of Action, 20 years after its approval, and the regional instruments that reinforce its implementation and relevance.
The United Nations’ main regional intergovernmental forum on ageing and older persons’ rights was inaugurated on Tuesday at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the organization that serves as the Conference’s Technical Secretariat. The meeting brought together delegates from 29 of ECLAC’s member countries and 3 associate members, along with representatives of 9 United Nations agencies and 49 civil society organizations. In total, more than 300 people participated in person and around 2,600 followed the conference remotely.
Participating in the closing session were Raúl García-Buchaca, Deputy Executive Secretary for Management and Programme Analysis of ECLAC; Jozef Maeriën, Chief of the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Francisca Perales, Undersecretary of Social Services of Chile, the country serving as Chair of the Regional Intergovernmental Conference on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons.
“This Conference has given us the opportunity to participate in very rich debates and exchanges. The country representatives have informed us about progress in the legislative realm, but also about the need to strengthen the institutions in charge of matters relating to older persons. To that end, it is necessary to maintain intersectoral and inter-agency coordination that would give greater impact to the policies geared towards older persons,” said Raúl García-Buchaca, ECLAC’s Deputy Executive Secretary, adding that universal social protection coverage for older persons is a sure way to overcome inequality in ageing.
“We at ECLAC will continue to collaborate with the inter-agency working groups on ageing and we will continue working on the production of data and updated knowledge about ageing and older persons’ rights with policy recommendations. We conclude this meeting with an ambitious and demanding work agenda. We leave with the satisfaction of having approved the Santiago Declaration, which is the result of the will to reach agreement between our countries,” he emphasized.
Jozef Maeriën, Chief of UNFPA’s Regional Office, called for action that would allow for “tackling the structural inequalities and social discrimination that excludes older persons, exposes them to poverty, to violence and to phenomena such as climate change, hindering the full guarantee of their rights.”
Undersecretary Francisca Perales, meanwhile, stressed the need to move towards the care society in order to ensure dignified ageing, and she emphasized the importance of coordination between the institutional framework and social organizations and movements to guarantee the dignity and well-being of society as a whole.
“Pursuing well-being also involves pursuing people’s happiness,” she declared.
In the Santiago Declaration, the country delegates in attendance highlighted the vital role of the Regional Conference as an intergovernmental space for the systematic process of voluntary regional appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.
They also recognized that access to justice is an essential human right and the fundamental instrument for guaranteeing that older persons are able to exercise and effectively defend their rights, and they emphasized the diverse and key contributions of older persons to the functioning of our societies.
In that regard, the Santiago Declaration calls for adopting effective measures to combat age-based discrimination and for eliminating the difficulties and obstacles that remain in the region and that undermine older persons’ participation in political, social, economic and cultural life as well as their human rights.
“We call upon governments to mainstream the issue of ageing in their development policies, plans and programs, to implement specific policies for older persons with a rights-based, gender, intersectional, intercultural and life-cycle approach, and to promote their autonomy and independence,” the document indicates.
The Declaration also calls upon States to recognize the digital divide that affects older persons, and it reaffirms the commitment to the development of universal, comprehensive, sustainable and resilient social protection systems that would allow guaranteed access, without discrimination, to quality health, housing and basic services.
Furthermore, it recognizes the crucial role of civil society organizations, the private sector and academia in the implementation, follow-up, evaluation and dissemination of the Madrid Plan.
The Regional Intergovernmental Conference on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean for 2022-2027 is composed of Chile as Chair along with Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay and Peru as Vice Chairs.