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The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons 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 has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.


For human rights purposes, age is not 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 21st 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, or 10 per cent 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 per cent of the global population. All regions will be confronted by growing numbers, as follows:

  • The fastest increase will take place in Africa which is projected to reach 215 million persons aged 60 or older by 2050, an almost fourfold increase from current figures, doubling its proportion from 5 per cent of the total population in 2010 to 11 per cent in 2050;
  • While the population of Western Asia remains young, the region is ageing fast. The population aged 60 or older is projected to more than quadruple in the next 40 years, to reach 69 million in 2050. The proportion of persons aged 60 and over is projected to increase to 19 per cent by 2050;
  • The Asia-Pacific region was home to 59 per cent of the world’s elderly population in 2010. It is estimated that the number of older persons in this region will triple in the next 40 years, from 414 million in 2010 to 1.25 billion by 2050. The proportion of people aged 60 and over in the total population will more than double between 2010 and 2050, from 10 per cent to 24 per cent;
  • Similar trends are found in Latin America and the Caribbean where the proportion of persons aged 60 and over will more than double between 2010 and 2050, from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, reaching 188 million persons;
  • Europe had the oldest population of all regions in 2010, and is expected to reach 236 million by 2050. Europe will continue to have the oldest population in the world, with a proportion of older persons that is projected to increase to 34 per cent in 2050.

(Source: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, E/2012/51, 2012)

What are Independent Experts

Independent Experts are appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a thematic or country-specific perspective in all parts of the world. This position is honorary, and the Independent Experts are not members of staff of the United Nations nor paid for their work. They express their views in an independent capacity and do not represent their respective Governments. The independent status of the Independent Expert is crucial in order to be able to fulfil his/her functions in all impartiality.

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 of the Human Rights Council.

For more information on the Independent Experts, please refer to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx.


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