Given the rapidly ageing population across Europe, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the region are increasingly working on the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons. Older persons have the same rights as others, but these rights are often not adequately protected and are scattered throughout different legal instruments, leaving a risk that older persons could be neglected in the implementation, monitoring and reporting of human rights.

At the national level, NHRIs advise governments on policy and legislation affecting the rights of older persons, monitor and report on older persons’ enjoyment of human rights in practice, combat discrimination on the grounds of age, and some conduct monitoring visits to residential care facilities for older persons.

We support European NHRIs’ work in this area by exchanging good practices through comparative research, informing NHRIs of relevant legislative and policy developments at the European and global levels, facilitating European NHRIs’ participation in these fora and engaging with leading civil society organisations working on the rights of older persons.

Long-term care in Europe

From 2015 to 2017, we implemented a leading project focused on the human rights protection of older persons in long-term care, with a focus on residential care. The project was funded by the European Commission.

We conducted desk-based research on the human rights standards relevant to older persons in long-term care and developed a toolkit for a human-rights approach to care. We also brought European NHRIs together to address the life experiences of older persons in long-term care. Our members in Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania conducted monitoring of residential long-term care, reported on their findings and provided recommendations to national authorities.

The project was implemented with the involvement of a number of organisations, including AGE Platform Europe, OHCHR, Council of Europe, European Commission and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

As a result of these activities, we published a European overview report titled ‘We have the same rights: the Human Rights of Older Persons in Long-term Care in Europe’.

Older person and younger person holding hands Download: We have the same rights: the Human Rights of Older Persons in Long-term Care in Europe

Advocacy before the Council of Europe

We engage with the Council of Europe to advocate for recommendations calling on States to realise the rights of older persons in practice. We make use of our standing as observer to the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to input on the Council of Europe’s work on older persons’ rights.

For example, we inputted to the work of the Drafting Group on the Human Rights of Older Persons (CDDH-AGE), which concluded its work with the adoption of the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the promotion of human rights of older persons.

Advocacy at the UN level

We facilitate European NHRIs’ participation in the Working Group on Ageing of the Global Alliance of NHRIs (GANHRI). Furthermore, we cooperate with GANHRI on all engagement with the UN on the rights of older persons.

We also encourage European NHRIs to input into the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. These inputs and other advocacy work are coordinated by ENNHRI’s Working Group on Human Rights of Older Persons. For instance, in 2018 it submitted comments to the UN Group on “autonomy and independence” and “long-term and palliative care”.

More recently, ENNHRI launched a guidance paper in December 2022 on how European NHRIs can advocate for a new UN Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons. Watch the guidance paper launch event.

Collectively and individually, NHRIs will continue pushing for the binding instrument so clearly needed in this area.