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Colombia: Congress Passes Law Ratifying Inter-American Convention on the Protection of Human Rights of Older Persons

(Oct. 20, 2020) On September 10, 2020, Colombia’s Congress passed Law No. 2055 to ratify the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of Human Rights of Older Persons. The convention had been adopted at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC, on June 15, 2015, and entered into force on January 11, 2017, 30 days after Costa Rica became the second party to the convention to deposit its instrument of ratification.

The convention seeks to promote, protect, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of older persons. Parties to the convention must ensure the elderly enjoy the rights to

  • equality and nondiscrimination for reasons of age;
  • life and dignity in old age on an equal basis with other segments of the population;
  • independence in decision-making and leading a life of autonomy in keeping with their traditions and beliefs;
  • participation and integration in the family, community, and society;
  • safety and a life free of violence of any kind;
  • freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • give free and informed consent on health matters;
  • receive long-term care;
  • personal liberty;
  • freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information;
  • nationality and freedom of movement;
  • privacy and intimacy;
  • social security;
  • work;
  • health and health care;
  • education;
  • a cultural identity, and participation in the cultural and artistic life of the community;
  • recreation, leisure, and sports;
  • property;
  • housing;
  • a healthy environment;
  • accessibility to the physical, social, economic, and cultural environment, and to personal mobility;
  • political rights;
  • freedom of association and assembly;
  • protection in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies;
  • equal recognition before the law; and
  • access to justice.

The convention defines older person to be a person 60 years or older, unless the internal law of the member country establishes a lower or higher base age, provided that it is not over 65 years.

The ratification of the convention is considered to be a very important measure in Colombia because, within 30 years, the percentage of elderly persons in the country are projected to increase by 9.7%, to 23% of the population.

The convention calls for the states parties to adopt, in compliance with each country’s constitutional procedures and the provisions of the convention, the legislative or other measures that are necessary to make such rights and freedoms effective.

Under this legally binding instrument, Colombia is committing to advance an institutional framework that secures the protection of the rights of the elderly aimed at their integral development. According to the Secretaria de Integración Social de Bogota, to achieve this goal, the government of Colombia will need to focus on formulating, executing, and evaluating public policy; undertaking comprehensive action; and engaging in constant monitoring to ensure that the commitments established in the convention are fulfilled. Parties to the convention are required to enact domestic laws in compliance with its mandates, especially those related to social protection systems and strengthening public policies that sustain and promote relevant care for older adults.