On 6 June 2019, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, held an advocacy meeting on the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa (Older Persons Protocol) in Liberia. The event was held in collaboration with HelpAge International, the Global Alliance, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Gender to sensitise Liberia on the Older Persons Protocol and urge them to ratify it. The meeting was held at the Golden Key Hotel, Monrovia. This forms part of the Centre’s ongoing #AgeWithRights campaign to enhance the protection of older persons, focusing specifically on the rights of older women.

Speakers at the event included Mr Nyanti Tuan (Senior Deputy Minister for Codification in the Ministry of Justice), Hon Lydia M Sherman (Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection), Attorney Phil Tarpeh Dixon (Deputy Minister of Labour), Attorney Korboi G Daniels (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Reverend Attorney Bartholomew B Colley (Acting Chairperson of the Independent National Human Rights Commission of Liberia). The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, National Commission of Disabilities, Liberia’s Association of Retired Persons, Governance Commission and civil society were also in attendance. 42 participants attended the meeting.

The first-panel discussion was on the status of older persons in Liberia focusing on available policies and programmes for their protection and the challenges and opportunities for better lives. Panellists included Mr Samuel Slewion (Global Fight Against Ageism), Reverend Anna Kpann (Coalition of Caregivers and Advocates for the Elderly (COCAEL)), J Togar Seekpee (President of the Liberia Association of Retired Persons (LARP)) and Mr Kpakael Roberts (researcher on longevity). From the panel discussions, various challenges such as extreme poverty, poor access to health care, severe violence, discrimination, witchcraft allegations and limited political participation were highlighted and it was noted that approximately 80% of the older generation do not know their rights.

The second-panel discussion was on the Older Persons Protocol and the importance of ratifying it. The panellists were Prof Michelo Hansungule (Centre for Human Rights), Mr Korboi G Daniels (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Ms Roseline Kihumba (Help Age International), who joined the discussions via Skype.

The meeting ended with firm commitments from the Ministries of Justice, Gender and Social Protections, Foreign Affairs and the Governance Commission to ratify the Older Persons Protocol. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will initiate the process towards ratification.

The ratification of both the Older Persons Protocol and the Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be included in the National Human Rights Plan of Action and is currently under draft as the treaties that should be ratified.

In addition, civil society organisations will be joining forces under the umbrella of the Stakeholder Group on Ageing (SGA-Liberia). SGA-Liberia will collectively advocate for the rights of older persons and committed to working with the Governance Commission to monitor and support the government to ratify.

The Centre for Human Rights looks forward to further engagement and collaboration with relevant stakeholders in Liberia to ensure the fulfilment of commitments made in this meeting towards the ratification of the Older Persons Protocol.  

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