In May 2014, the Human Rights Council appointed Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons (HROP). 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 hasa long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontificia Unversidad Catolica de Chile.
For human rights purposes, age is not a merely a numerical designation, but a social construct based on custom, practice and the perception of the role a person plays in his or her community. The specific vulnerabilities of older persons can be the result of physical and mental conditions, but can also result from the obstacles encountered due to societal perception and the interaction of an individual with his or her environment.
Population ageing constitutes one of the most significant demographic transformations of the twenty-first century. For the first time in history, humankind will reach a point at which there are fewer children than older persons in the world.
Approximately 700 million people, i.e. 10 percent of the world’s population are over the age of 60. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of older persons will have doubled reaching 20 percent of the global population. All regions will be confronted by growing numbers, whereby the fastest increase will take place in Africa, and Europe will continue to have the world’s oldest population with 34 percent of its population being over the age of 60.
In resolution 24/20 of 27 September 2013, the Human Rights Council requests the Independent Expert:
(a) To assess the implementation of existing international instruments with regard to older persons while identifying both best practices in the implementation of existing law related to the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons and gaps in the implementation of existing law;
(b) To take into account the views of stakeholders, including States, relevant regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academic institutions;
(c) To raise awareness of the challenges faced in the realization of all human rights by older persons, and to ensure that older persons receive information about those rights;
(d) To work in cooperation with States in order to foster the implementation of measures that contribute to the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons;
(e) To integrate a gender and disability perspective into his/her work, and to pay particular attention to older women, persons with disabilities, persons of African descent, individuals belonging to indigenous peoples, persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, rural persons, persons living on the streets, and refugees, among other groups;
(f) To assess the human rights implications of the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing;
(g) To work in close coordination, while avoiding unnecessary duplication, with the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, other special procedures and subsidiary organs of the Human Rights Council, relevant United Nations bodies and the treaty bodies;
Methods of work
In the discharge of the mandate, the Independent Expert will:
- receive information from diverse sources including States, expert bodies, United Nations agencies, regional and other inter-governmental organizations, NGOs and other civil society organizations;
- submit annual reports on the activities to the Human Rights Council;
- undertake, at the invitation of Governments, country visits to study national legislation, policy, regulatory frameworks and institutions and practices, in seeking to identify best practices and gaps in the implementation of the existing law.
What are Independent Experts
Independent Experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. This position is honorary and the expert is not a staff of the United Nations nor paid for his/her work.
Since 1979, special mechanisms have been created by the United Nations to examine specific country situations or themes from a human rights perspective. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, replaced by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, has mandated experts to study particular human rights issues. These experts constitute what are known as the United Nations human rights mechanisms or mandates, or the system of special procedures.
For more information on the Special Rapporteurs, please refer to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx