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AGE Annual Conference: Writing the next chapter for Age Equality in the EU

Statement by Elena Kountouri Tapiero, UN Human Rights Regional Representative for Europe a.i.

Leuven, Belgium. 12 June 2024.

Good morning!

Let me start by thanking AGE Platform, a much-valued partner of the UN Human Rights Office, for creating this opportunity to discuss age equality and the rights of older persons in Europe. This is a must-needed discussion - older people are not often visible, or even discussed, at the table of decision-makers. Not at national level; not at EU level; not at international level. And when they are, it is often about them as recipients of care or as demographic group placing a financial burden on society. It is very rarely about human rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the spotlight on the flaws in the protection of older persons’ rights. The impacts were devastating. Not only were they at significantly higher risk of severe disease and death, age-based discrimination in decisions on access to life-saving health care and triage was blatant. So were the horrifying stories of older persons left behind in care homes among the dead bodies of their peers. While the pandemic is behind us, the promise to ‘build back better’ rings rather hollow. What measures were taken to prevent such violations in future crises? What has been done since to promote and protect the rights of older persons?

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