Commissioners: Soledad García Muñoz, Antonia Urrejola Noguera, Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Flávia Piovesan

State: Uruguay (Requestor of the hearing)

At the December 6, 2018 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) hearing, as the requestor for the hearing, Uruguay stressed the need for follow-up mechanisms on the human rights of older persons and urged other member states to ratify the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons (the Convention).  Since its approval at the 45th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) on June 15, 2015, only six countries have signed the Convention. El Salvador plans to be the next signatory to the Convention and submitted an instrument of accession on April 18, 2018.

Uruguay was represented by OAS Ambassador for Uruguay, Hugo Cayrús, and the Ministry for Social Development’s representative from the Instituto Nacional de las Personas Mayores, Sara Garcia. Ambassador Cayrús acknowledged Uruguay as the first country to ratify the Convention, an invaluable instrument in guaranteeing the rights of older persons. Then, Sara Garcia presented on advancements in the rights of older persons in Uruguay in accordance with the Convention and Uruguay’s Second National Plan for Aging 2016-2019. Areas of advancement in Uruguay include the initiation of the national health system ensuring universal health coverage, promotion of independent agencies representing the interests of elderly persons, reformation of retirement and pension polices, and codification of older persons’ right to care.

The representatives concluded with remarks identifying the value of the Inter-American system as a legal body and the importance of protecting the accessibility, universality, and equal access to justice for older persons. In final remarks, Garcia stressed that by recognizing older persons as equal holders of rights, older persons can in turn recognize themselves as holders of rights.

Members from independent agencies such as the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and other civil society organizations spoke about the current environment affecting the rights of older persons in the region and the continuing need for an active convention adopted by all OAS member states. Specifically, situations of economic and political instability, such as the economic crisis in Venezuela, create the risk of halting any potential reform of social programs and policies aimed at protecting older persons.

A representative from a civil society organization based in Venezuela emphasized that the elderly are facing specific issues in the midst of Venezuela’s economic crisis. Venezuela’s economic crisis has led to many people migrating to neighboring countries. The elderly, either abandoned or a part of the migrating population, face a specific vulnerability because of their need for access to care and social security programs. The elderly population migrating from Venezuela must rely on disparate pre-existing agreements between states for access to social security benefits and affordable healthcare. Representatives from civil society organizations reiterated how the Inter-American approach and increased participation in the Convention could promote uniformity in states’ recognition of older persons’ rights. Civil society members called for concrete plans of action for states to ratify the Convention.

Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Second Vice President of the IACHR, expressed concern regarding the low participation in the convention among OAS member states. Commissioner Flávia Piovesan then spoke on a five-part plan of action for increased participation in the Convention and greater recognition of the rights of older persons. The plan included awareness and dissemination campaigns, support for ratification of the Convention, reports on the situation of rights in the hemisphere, cooperation with civil organizations, and political action through legislative measures. Commissioner Piovesan spoke on the importance of older persons participating and contributing to this plan, a point also shared by Commissioner Antonia Urrejola Noguera. Commissioner Noguera reiterated the importance of alliances between state actors and civil society to guide policy and keep states accountable.

Uruguay’s request for a hearing at the Sessions comes at an important time for the protection of older persons in the Americas. As addressed by representatives from civil society, major issues of migration and instability underscore the value of the Inter-American framework as a legal body in supporting implementation of protective mechanisms through the Convention. The commissioners agree that more member countries need to ratify the Convention and recognize the need for concrete plans of action called for by civil society members. As stressed by Uruguay, ratification is a part of the OAS member countries’ obligations under the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because older persons’ rights are human rights.