Press Release

Bangladesh: ‘Invisible’ older persons must be recognized and prioritized, says UN expert

17 November 2022

I remain hopeful that Bangladesh will provide the appropriate political will and budgeting to strengthen the protection of older persons in the country

DHAKA/GENEVA (17 November 2022) – Bangladesh must take concrete action to combat entrenched and pervasive ageism and follow through on its planned measures to ensure human rights protection of older persons, a UN expert said.

Concluding an 11-day visit in the country, Claudia Mahler, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights for older persons, welcomed the existence of a dedicated National Policy on Older Persons, as a first commendable step. “However, the lack of a time-bonding action plan to further its implementation remains problematic,” Mahler said. More than nine years after its adoption, most of the priorities remain unattended. 

Acknowledging the Government’s ongoing challenges related to climate change and a growing economic and financial crisis, she called on the Government to recognise older persons’ experiences, skills and contributions to their families and society at large.

“Such recognition would enhance support and protection to a growing proportion of the population that remains invisible,” Mahler said in a statement (English / Bangla). “Most of the older persons I met expressed often feeling like a burden to their family and the society, due the rampant structural ageism.”

While Bangladeshi society has a tradition of respecting and providing care for older relatives, their specific needs are easily ignored. “Older persons especially face structural ageist assumptions in the labour market, preventing those living in poverty to sustain themselves and their kin,” the expert said.

Mahler applauded the country’s Old Age Allowance, a non-contributory safety net benefiting almost half the older population, but more funding is needed. “The limited budget allocation for this programme barely covers the cost of medicines older persons need.”

Mahler also urged the Government to implement measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change on older persons and expressed concern that geriatric healthcare is scarce. Specific attention should be given to older persons living in vulnerable situations, including those deprived of liberty, living in slum urban areas, Rohingya camps, or working in shipbreaking yards, as well as those facing multiple forms of discrimination.

During her visit, the Independent Expert met with relevant Government authorities at national and local levels, civil society, stakeholders working on the rights of older persons and more than 200 older persons.

“I remain hopeful that Bangladesh will provide the appropriate political will and budgeting to strengthen the protection of older persons in the country,” she said.

The expert will present a comprehensive report of her findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2023.


The expert: Claudia Mahler (Austria) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2020. She has been working for the German Institute for Human Rights as a senior researcher in the field of economic, social and cultural rights since 2010. She was also a visiting professor at the Alice Salomon Hochschule in 2020-2021. From 2001 to 2009, Ms. Mahler conducted research at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Potsdam where her main fields were in human rights education, minority rights and the law of asylum. In 2000, she received her doctoral degree and was appointed as Vice President of the Human Rights Commission for Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Bangladesh

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