Explanation of Vote on 3rd Committee agenda items 27 (b) and (c) "Towards a comprehensive and integral international legal instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons

Teri Robl
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
New York, NY
November 27, 2012


Thank you, Mr. Chair. The United States has a strong history of policies, legislation, and programs that have focused on establishing and protecting the rights and dignity of older people, while promoting their independence. The goals of U.S. domestic policy are to increase older persons’ access to services and full participation in the community, and focus attention and resources on the unique needs of older Americans.

During this Third Committee session, a consensus resolution on ageing issues and older persons has been put forward by the Group of 77 and is expected to be adopted with strong support from the United States and many other delegations. That resolution, entitled "Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing," and numbered A/C.3/67/L.13, calls for a fourth session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing to be held in 2013, without pre-judging what its mandate should be. That resolution focuses on the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and its upcoming Second Global Review, and looks forward to synergies between the Madrid Process and the work of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. The United States will co-sponsor the G-77 resolution on the Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing.

In contrast, the resolution now before us would give the Open-Ended Working Group a mandate of considering proposals for a new international legal instrument on older persons, asking the Working Group to present to the General Assembly a proposal containing the main elements that should be included in such an instrument.

The main thrust of this resolution does not take into account the considerable discussions at the three Open-Ended Working Group sessions taking place during 2011 and 2012. During these discussions, no consensus has emerged on whether a new convention is the best way to protect older persons and advance their well-being.

Older persons face critical challenges involving violence and abuse, economic security, and health and nutrition needs – but older persons are already entitled to human rights protections under existing human rights instruments that provide for promotion and protection of human rights for all. There are actions that can be taken in the short term and within existing instruments that should be considered. Therefore, at this time, we find it inappropriate to have a resolution that would initiate steps towards drafting an international legally binding instrument. Scarce resources would be better spent on implementation of these existing rights, rather than on negotiation of a new document that reiterated those rights.

Negotiating a convention or other international instrument would require substantial human and monetary resources. Member state delegations would need to meet multiple times, most likely in a process lasting several years, in order to arrive at a document that could be adopted by consensus. Considering the budget constraints the UN, member states, and civil society organizations currently face, more reflection is needed to decide on the wisdom of such a course of action, which would inevitably divert resources from addressing the more immediate and concrete needs of older persons.

For these reasons, the United States will vote no on the resolution "Towards a comprehensive and integral international legal instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of older persons." We urge other Member States to do the same, in order to avoid sending conflicting messages about the appropriate way forward to address the issues of ageing and older persons.

We ask that this Explanation be made part of the official records of this meeting. Thank you.


PRN: 2012/281