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The Wednesday Web Chat

Protecting the rights of older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic

Older persons are amongst the most affected groups by COVID-19. Not only do they face a higher threat to their rights to life and health, but also prevention and response-related decisions can deepen their social isolation. Unless their voices and views are taken into account, their ability to exercise their autonomy and rights might be compromised.  The social perception that COVID-19 is a disease that impacts older persons exacerbates negative stereotypes about older persons who may be viewed as weak, unimportant and a burden on society. Such age-based discrimination may manifest in the provision of services because the treatment of older persons may be perceived as less important than the treatment of younger generations. Stigma and discrimination can be further aggravated in a context where older persons have been frequently overlooked in development and humanitarian strategies, and in their funding. Considering the higher risks confronted by older persons in the COVID-19 pandemic, development and humanitarian strategies must explicitly identify and consider their needs, challenges and strengths at all levels and in all settings. 

To find out how this can be achieved, we invite you to join us for the eight Right On web chat on Wednesday, 27th May at 1pm UTC (3 pm CEST).

Register here


Ms Bridget Sleap

Ms Bridget Sleap is a Senior Rights Policy Adviser at HelpAge International, a global network of organisations promoting the right of all older people to lead dignified, healthy and secure lives. After working at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, Bridget completed a Masters Degree in International Human Rights at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. Since then she has worked on human rights and development at the Panos Institute, International Family Health and now HelpAge International where she focuses on strengthening the rights of older people.

Dr Claudia Mahler

Dr Claudia Mahler is an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. 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 is also a visiting professor at the Alice Salomon Hochschule. 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 was appointed as Vice President of the Human Rights Commission for Tyrol and Vorarlberg. She has also worked as a lecturer in the field of human rights law and as a consultant to OHCHR in Geneva. From 1997-2001, she held the position of an assistant at the Leopold-Franzens-University Innsbruck, Austria in the field of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedures. Ms. Mahler received her doctoral degree in 2000.

Ms Nena Georgantzi

Ms Nena Georgantzi is a Policy Coordinator Human Rights & Non-Discrimination at AGE Platform Europe, an EU network, which aims to voice and promote the rights of the 190 million citizens aged 50+ in the European Union and to raise awareness on the issues that concern them most. She is currently finalizing her PhD on the human rights of older persons at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG). Ms Georgantzi has participated in the drafting of the Council of Europe recommendation on the rights of older persons and has consulted the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She is also involved in the political process around a new UN convention on the rights of older persons and Deputy Chair of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older Persons.

Ms Silvia Perel-Levin

Ms Silvia Perel-Levin is the Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing in Geneva and representative of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) to the UN. An advocate for the human rights of older persons, she focuses on violence abuse and neglect of older persons and on the intersections of gender, age and disability. Ms Perel-Levin has been working in the fields of health, ageing and rights for over 20 years at the World Health Organisation, the Union for International Cancer Control and as an independent consultant. Before that she was a TV, film and theatre producer using the arts as tools for social change. She was born in Argentina and has a B.A. in social and educational theatre from Tel Aviv University and an MSc in Inter-Professional Practice from the Institute of Health Sciences of City University of London.

Mr Rio Hada

Mr Rio Hada is currently coordinating the work of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the area of economic and social rights. He also leads the work of OHCHR on the human rights of older persons, and serves as the joint secretariat with DESA for the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing established by the General Assembly with the mandate to strengthen the protection of human rights of older persons. Since joining OHCHR in 2000, he has worked on a variety of mandates related to the right to development and economic and social rights including housing, food, education, poverty and foreign debt. Over the past several years, he led OHCHR’s human rights mainstreaming agenda in the UN system and coordinated UN interagency efforts to integrate human rights in the policies and programmes of the UN development system and to promote human rights-based implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.Prior to OHCHR, he served at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York, the UN Office at Vienna, UNDP and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, on a wide range of issues including poverty and social development, post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation, international trade and South-South cooperation.


Mr Alfonso Barragues

Mr Alfonso Barragues is the Deputy Director of UNFPA’s liaison office in Geneva and senior external relations advisor. Prior to that position, he served as UNFPA senior Human Rights Advisor in New York, with a leading role in promoting the mainstreaming of human rights across the work of the Fund and coordinating UNFPA efforts to advance reproductive rights. He has 22 years of experience in the field of human rights at the UN system both with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at its headquarters in Geneva, in Guatemala and Rwanda as well as with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in Angola and Mozambique. During all these years, Mr. Barragues has been responsible for managing a range of programmes in the areas of human rights awareness, access to justice, development of national human rights protection systems and social accountability. Mr. Barragues has been leading UN inter-agency efforts to apply a human rights based-approach to development in global advocacy, UN Common Programming processes and national policies and budgets. Mr. Barragues is a human rights lawyer by training and holds a Master’s degree in Law from Universidad Autonoma of Madrid, Spain.