Sunday, June 1, 2014

Comparative Law Observations from Aging, Law & Society CRN: Aging Human Rights

As Becky Morgan and I reported earlier, the Law & Society Annual Meeting held in Minneapolis from May 29 through June 1, attracted terrifically interesting speakers, both from within and outside the United States. During the Critical Research Network sessions (CRN) on Aging, Law & Society,  I was particularly struck by listening to a trio of speakers from Israel, including Israel (Issi) Doron from the University of Haifa, Michael (Mickey) Schindler from Bar-Ilan University, and Benny Spanier, from Haifa University. 

Issi provided a historical perspective on aging as an international human rights issue, tracking the development of action plans under the auspices of the  United Nations from 1982 in Vienna to 2002 in Madrid. The 2002 outcome document, the  Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), expresses the commitment of 160 participating governments, including the United States,  to integrate rights and needs of older persons into national, as well as international, economic and social development policies. However, as Issi pointed out, this is a "soft" document, non-binding in nature.

Thus, the next important step is a Convention or Treaty on aging human rights, a subject of on-going discussions in international circles.  Issi saw a hopeful sign in May 2014 appointment of a new Independent Expert on Human Rights of Older Persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, by the U.N. Human Rights Council.  Rosa Kornfeld-Matte Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing and has a long career as an academic, working for more than 20 years at the Pontificia Unversidad Catolica de Chile, where she founded a program on older people. The role for Ms. Kornfeld-Matte, who has a 3 year appointment, is that of fact-finder, to provide an independent assessment of the critical issues for aging human rights as the basis for international law.  

Micky's presentation focused on the effect of Israel's use -- or relative nonuse -- of legislation adopted in 1966, the "Safety of Protected Persons Law."  He pointed to the potential role of social workers in safeguarding the rights of older adults, and suggesting that the flexibility available to the court to fashion court-enforced solutions to care and safety issues might be a better option than what is available under the more-often used guardianship law.

Benny examined some 226 decisions involving claims by older persons before the European Court of Human Rights, drawn from 2000 to 2010, concluding that although the European Convention on Human Rights does not specifically recognize older adults as having protected right, the cases examined demonstrate that individuals making age-based claims for protection are seeking -- and in some instances finding -- relief before this court.  Benny's analysis of these cases, in a paper co-authored with Issi and Faina Milman-Sivan, also from the University of Haifa, was published in late 2013 in the Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology.   

Following the first day of presentations and workshops, several of the speakers met for dinner at a local Minneapolis restaurant (Spoonriver, overlooking the Mississippi River -- great spot!), and a number of us were discussing a growing problem for international researchMany of the key journals and periodical publications for aging research are "owned" by publishers who prohibit authors from placing final versions of their papers on open-access research platforms such as SSRN.  The prices charged for individual researchers' access to electronic copies of an article are often prohibitive for academic researchers, who often need and wish to cite to multiple sources. We discussed options, such as whether authors should seek to negotiate for unrestricted  public access after an initial period of fee-paid access.  Others' thoughts on this issue?  

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