Ethiopia signs the AU Protocol on the rights of older persons

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An older person from Ethiopia
An older person

The Prime Minister-led Cabinet Ministers’ Council in Ethiopia has signed the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons (hereby called African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons or the Protocol) and signaled a significant commitment to protect and promote rights of older people in Ethiopia.

Introduced to the cabinet by the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs and the Justice Minister, the cabinet took time to deliberate on the content of the Protocol and later signed it.

The move now leaves the country’s parliament to approve the decision of the parliament and thereby ratify it.

Reacting to the news, Mr Sisay Seymour, HelpAge International Country Director said this is the best news coming ahead of Christmas.

“It is a testimony that the government cares for its ageing population and it is ready to take on the challenges that population ageing will bring along,” he said.

Necodimus Chipfupa, Interim Regional Director, HelpAge International said the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has done the right thing for its older population, a country that has the 2nd largest share of older persons in the continent. The signing of the Protocol by the Government of Ethiopia now brings to 15 the number of African countries that have signed the Protocol.

Chipfupa noted the ongoing discussions between the governments and stakeholders in Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, South Africa, Mauritius, Liberia, Eswatini, Kenya and Uganda all of who have in place the protocol ratification road maps.

Ratification of the Protocol will ensure Member States make progress in domesticating the Protocol and mainstreaming ageing and older persons rights within national laws, policies, programmes and services

Benin (West Africa) and Lesotho (Southern Africa) remain the only countries to have ratified and domesticated the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons. For the Protocol to come in force, the continent needs 15 countries to ratify the Protocol.

The adoption of the Protocol in January 2016, by the African leaders showed their commitment towards making Africa a continent where growing old is a positive experience, a continent where older people use their talents and potential, are treated with dignity and respect, and as equal members of society. The continued delay of Member States signing and ratifying the Protocol denies older persons their rights. The majority of older persons continue to live in abject poverty, experience ageism and discrimination, abuse, neglect and violence.

“Africa continent is experiencing the highest increase of ageing population, in an environment where laws, policies, programmes and services are not supportive of the current number of older persons. There is urgent need for Member States to ratify the Protocol so that the continent can accelerate age appropriate changes in public systems, structures, policies and legal frameworks” noted Chipfupa.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates the population of people above the age 60 in Africa at 65 million today but says that this will reach 220 million by 2050.

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