Standing up for the rights of people with dementia

Standing up for the rights of people with dementia

Today, Human Rights Day, and every day we must uphold the rights of people with dementia and those that support them.

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, it commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are the rights people are entitled to simply because they are human beings. Yet 68 years on, the simple aims and premise of this ground-breaking treaty still need complex processes to be fully implemented.

GADAA member organisations are working to recognise the rights of people living with dementia worldwide and to ensure these rights are fully realised.

This week GADAA Executive Lead Amy Little will be attending the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Ageing at UN Headquarters in New York as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease International delegation. Other GADAA members attending include Age International, the International Longevity Centre, AARP and the World Hospice & Palliative Care Alliance. The OEWG on Ageing was set up in 2010 to consider the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons and identify possible gaps and how best to address them. Focus at the meeting will be on the call from a broad spectrum of civil society and likeminded states to accelerate the process towards a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.

Existing human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), have demonstrated how such treaties can improve the way people are viewed and treated by society and can stimulate policy change.  Older people are routinely discriminated against worldwide, yet internationally there is no universal prohibition against this type of discrimination.

Professor Peter Mittler, a Human Rights Adviser to GADAA member Dementia Alliance International, says “What matters to us now is that people living with dementia should be empowered to use their undisputed right of access to  [the CRPD] and to other relevant UN Human Rights Conventions, including a future Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.”

Dementia Alliance International is a global advocacy group of people living with dementia. To mark Human Rights Day it is reminding the 168 Member States who have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that they are already committed in international law under CRPD Article 1 to include persons with dementia in its implementation. Yet still many people with dementia worldwide face discrimination and lack access to meet their basic needs. This can range from a lack of access to health services, to a culture of ostracism, aggression and even violence for people with dementia in some parts of the world.

It is this fundamental gap in the needs and rights of people with dementia being met, that has led to a WHO process to develop a Global Plan of Action on Dementia, currently under consideration by WHO Member States. The Draft Global Plan of Action on Dementia recognizes that people with dementia are frequently denied their human rights and it is therefore one of the cross-cutting principles of the draft plan. GADAA members are calling on governments to give their full support to the global plan, to secure its adoption in 2017 and its effective implementation.

The spectrum of legal instruments ratified by governments worldwide and in the process of being agreed, are crucial mechanisms to uphold the rights of every one of us including people with dementia. People living with dementia must have these tools at hand to engage with local and national governments in order to claim their rights as human beings.

On a day to day basis we all have a part to play in protecting the rights and ensuring the needs of the most vulnerable in our world. In his message for Human Rights Day UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reminds us, “Wherever we are, each of us can make a difference for human rights – in our neighbourhoods, in school, at work, on social media, at home and even in sporting arenas across the world. Together, let us stand up for someone’s rights. Today, tomorrow, and every day”.

Human Rights Day is 24 hours, human rights must be upheld 24/7.