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“The vulnerable of the vulnerable” – UN expert urges Slovenia to focus the ostracized older persons

LJUBLJANA / GENEVA (21 November 2014) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the human rights of older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, today hailed the Slovenian Government efforts in ensuring the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, but urged the authorities “to focus its attention on ostracized older persons, who are the vulnerable of the vulnerable.”

“Slovenia has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the rights of older persons at the international level,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte said at the end of a five-day official visit to the country. “It has a good normative framework, but there is still room for improvements in practice.”

The Independent Expert noted that poverty among older persons in Slovenia is an area of concern, notably among older women living in single households and older persons belonging to minorities and other marginalized groups, which are disproportionally affected by it.

Important adjustments have been made in recent years, including the implementation of the reform of the social transfers system in 2012. The pension reform, which was adopted by the National Assembly in 2011, was however later rejected in a referendum, and Slovenia still lacks an integrated system for long-term care.

“There is further need to adapt the existing social protection systems to population ageing,” the expert said, while acknowledging the Government’s efforts. “Priority should be given to pension system reform as well as long-term care, notably the introduction of an insurance-based residential and home care system.”

Ms. Kornfeld-Matte also highlighted the issue of abuse of older persons: “As is often the case, older persons suffer in silence, with only few cases officially reported and complained against, notably in rural areas and small villages,” she said. “Many older persons fear reprisals from family members when launching official complaints and having to testify in a judicial process.”

The lack of knowledge and awareness about their rights is another reason for the low turnout of complaints. “The particular vulnerability of older persons needs to be taken into account when designing complaint mechanisms,” the Independent Expert stated, while calling for awareness raising campaigns targeting not only older persons themselves, but family members in particular and sensitizing broader communities.

“I commend the Government for its commitment to support families that provide care for older persons and promote intergenerational and intra-generational solidarity among their members,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte said.

She noted that, while there is strong evidence in favour of moving from institutional care to community-based alternatives, it requires sufficient and well-trained staff with skills appropriate for community-based care as well as adequate support to families.

“I encourage the Government to continue the process of deinstitutionalization and to prepare a deinstitutionalization action plan, including the parallel development of community based services in consultations with civil society, local communities and older persons themselves,” the human rights expert said.

Ms. Kornfeld-Matte drew special attention to the situation of country’s Roma population: “Slovenia is among the European countries with the most pronounced ageing of population,” she said. “This does not seem to be the case alas, when it comes to the Roma population: out of the 3,246 self-declared Roma in 2002, only 73 were older than 65 years of age according to official statistics.

“You need not be an expert to draw conclusions when looking at these figures, and while I acknowledge the efforts undertaken by the Government, immediate steps are needed to end the segregation affecting Roma across the board,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte stressed.

The expert commended the measures taken by Slovenia towards full enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, such as the promotion of inter-generational cooperation and initiatives, the community care project ‘elderly for elderly’ or the Third Age University. She also welcomed the preparations for the new Strategy for Quality Ageing, Solidarity and Coexistence of Generations in Slovenia by 2020.

During her five-day visit, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte met with various Government authorities, non-governmental organizations, others working on the rights of older persons and the elderly themselves.

A report on the Independent Expert’s findings and recommendations of her visit will be presented at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2015.

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. 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 atthe Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. . Learn more, visit:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/IE/Pages/IEOlderPersons.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Human rights of older persons: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/Pages/OlderPersonsIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Slovenia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/SIIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Mr. Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67, during the visit +41 79 201 01 22 / khassine@ohchr.org) or write to olderpersons@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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