"Since the beginning of the mandate, I have sought to continuously engage with different stakeholders around the world to support and develop programs and policies that protect the human rights of older persons."

Resolution 24/20 of the Human Rights Council1 establishing the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons reflects a global commitment by Member States to address the concerns of older persons. It acknowledges the importance of overcoming the challenges and maximizing the opportunities associated with an aging world. I was honored to take on this distinguished position in May 2014.

The world is undergoing unprecedented demographic transformation. Today there are around 700 million persons aged 60 years and over. Estimates indicate that this figure will double by 2025 and will reach nearly two billion by 2050. By 2050, older persons will constitute 20 percent of the global population. In the light of these projections, the human rights of older persons can no longer be overlooked.

The mission of this mandate reflects this concern and its main objective is to contribute to strengthening the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons. The United Nations Principles for Older Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 19912, is currently guiding this mandate by placing the dignity of older persons at the heart of its work.

The scope of this mandate is sufficiently broad to embrace the diversity and heterogeneity of aging, while allowing the opportunity to pay particular attention to specific groups. These groups include older women, persons with disabilities, those suffering from dementia, persons of African descent, indigenous peoples, those belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as those living in rural and urban areas and/or facing emergency situations.

As the Independent Expert, I am mandated to assess the implementation of existing international instruments in relation to older persons. This assessment will identify both best practices and gaps in the implementation of existing law focusing on the human rights implications of the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action of Ageing, endorsed by the General Assembly in 20023. This Plan has guided the development of legislation and social policies at the national and international levels. In addition, this mandate will raise awareness of the challenges faced in the realization of the rights of older persons and propose recommendations to overcome them. Older persons are rights holders and should be able to exercise their rights in all circumstances.

Moving from words to action is not always easy, but there are many ways to achieve this important mission. As the Independent Expert, I am required to present a comprehensive report to the Member States of the Human Rights Council in 2017. During these first three years, this mandate will need the continuous contribution and constructive participation of all actors, including Member States, international and regional organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions, the elderly and all stakeholders in all regions. This support will allow for information sharing and a better understanding of the different challenges associated with the implementation of existing law at the regional, national and local levels.

In this context, the mandate complements the efforts of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. The Working Group must consider the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons, and to identify possible gaps and to assess how best to address them, including by considering, as appropriate, the feasibility of further instruments and measures. The activities of this mandate and the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing are complementary and together they support the protection and promotion of the human rights of older persons worldwide.

Among the tools of this mandate are the country visits conducted at the invitation of governments. These official visits provide first-hand information on issues relating to the human rights of older persons and represent a unique opportunity to directly engage with States. Country level engagement includes discussion of the national legislation, policies and institutional frameworks to protect and promote the rights of older persons. In accordance with the mandate, the first country visit took place in Slovenia in November 2014, and will result in a comprehensive report with observations and recommendations presented to the Human Rights Council in 2015. Successful practices and policies should be strengthened and made visible to all actors involved with questions of aging.

Another important instrument of the mandate is the annual thematic reports on key issues of concern. The main theme for the 2015 report will be care and autonomy, providing a wide-ranging analysis of the needs of those requiring home, palliative and long-term care. It is fundamental to strengthen mechanisms and services that facilitate older persons to exercise their autonomy and prevent and or delay dependence. The report will explore how active and healthy aging, age-friendly environments, autonomy and active participation in all aspects of society should be promoted to encourage the valuable contribution of older people to our societies.

Since human rights are by nature universal, indivisible and interdependent, all reports will encompass an interconnected approach to the legal instruments, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Within this human rights perspective, particular attention will be given to discrimination based on age, abuse against older persons, as well as the right to work, social security, social protection, health, education and access to justice.

In addition, this mandate can also facilitate intervention in government policies concerning specific allegations of violations of human rights of older persons. These interventions may involve a human rights violation that has already occurred, as well as those that are ongoing or have a high risk of occurring. These communications are made public in a joint report of the mechanism of special procedures to the Human Rights Council4.

Since the beginning of the mandate, I have sought to continuously engage with different stakeholders around the world to support and develop programs and policies that protect the human rights of older persons. There is a political and social will to enact change at the international and national levels. All States and other stakeholders should not lose this timely opportunity to overcome challenges and ensure the fullest protection of the rights of older persons. 






about the author

In May 2014, the Human Rights Council appointed Ms. Kornfeld-Matte as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.




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