Skip to main content

Posted: by & filed under News

Following years of work by campaigning groups and calls for a UN convention, the human rights of older people are finally being brought into focus and getting the attention they deserve.

In 2013 the UN Human Rights Council created the new role of Independent Expert on the Rights of Older People, and now the role has been filled, with Rosa Kornfeld-Matte of Chile appointed to the position. This is a significant moment in the field of human rights as older people have never previously had their own dedicated representation at the UN.

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte has many years of relevant experience, having worked as director of a national ageing services organisation in Chile, and also having established a programme on ageing and older people at a major Chilean university where she worked for over twenty years.

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte has many years of relevant experience, having worked as director of a national ageing services organisation in Chile, and also having established a programme on ageing and older people at a major Chilean university where she worked for over twenty years.

What will the Independent Expert role entail?

Visiting different countries to learn about human rights issues, and make recommendations for change where needed

  • Relating to individual cases or more widespread concerns
  • Promoting awareness of barriers faced by older people when seeking to have their human rights met
  • Participating in the annual New York Open-ended Working Group on Ageing
  • Providing a report once a year to the Human Rights Council.

Areas of concern

It is expected that the Independent Expert will be exploring and seeking to address known areas of concern in human rights for older people, such as work, financial security and health, as well as finding out what other challenges older people are facing. In many countries, older people experience discrimination in the workplace or when applying for jobs.

In some countries there are no pension schemes or other social welfare benefits to prevent older people from falling into extreme poverty. Healthcare is inadequate for all ages in some countries, but in others it may be available but denied to older people on the basis of their age. It is also recognised that the safety needs of vulnerable older people are not consistently met in some parts of the world.

Although Mrs Kornfeld-Matte is newly appointed, her first report to the Human Rights Council is expected in September 2014. It remains to be seen what changes will be introduced and when, as a result of the new appointment, but without doubt, it can only have a positive impact on an area of human rights which has much scope for improvement.

« Back to Blog