Remarks at a UN Third Committee Meeting on Social Development

Mordica Simpson
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
Tuesday, October 1, 2019


The United States thanks the Independent Expert for her report on protecting older persons in emergency situations arising from conflicts or natural disasters. We acknowledge that especially during crisis situations, older persons face particular challenges regarding housing, social security, employment, nutrition, and health, and we believe that steady progress must be made toward overcoming these particular vulnerabilities.

With particular regard to the report, the United States concurs with most, but not all, of its conclusions and recommendations. While we agree that pensions can boost older persons’ resilience, it is important to point out that not all member states support or implement the concept of universal non-contributory pensions (paragraph 93). More fundamentally, we disagree with the view that a new UN convention on older persons is necessary to advance older persons’ human rights or assist them in humanitarian crisis situations (paragraph 101). Existing human rights instruments already adequately promote and protect the human rights of all individuals, including older persons, and adherence to these existing instruments will provide for their protection.

Instead of using our limited human and monetary resources for prolonged multilateral negotiations on a new instrument, we should rather devote ourselves to short-term, results-driven actions that address older persons’ immediate needs, including protection from violence and abuse, as well as enhancing economic security, health, and nutrition. We are already doing this in the United States. Domestically, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (HHS/ACL) advocates for older persons and their families, including through access to resources to uphold their rights, prevent abuse, strengthen them financially, and facilitate independent living. Internationally, the U.S. Agency for International Development works to improve lives with respect to nutrition, health, sanitation and hygiene, and education.

QUESTION: The Independent Expert notes that collecting data on older persons’ needs during emergency situations will lead to improved emergency planning and response. Are there efforts underway within the UN system to accomplish this?