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International Day of Older Persons
1 October 2019

Stand up now for Older Persons' Rights

GENEVA (30 September 2019) – The UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, calls on everyone to stand up for older persons' rights on the occasion of the global UN Day of older persons. She issues the following statement:

"Today, older persons – unlike women, children, persons with disabilities and migrants or refugees – are not protected by a specific universal human rights instrument. Legal provisions taking into account the specific protection needs of older people similar to those for other groups in situations of vulnerability are currently non-existent. 

The lack of a dedicated legal instrument for older people may also explain the lack of attention to the specific challenges older men and women face in the global policy framework, including the Sustainable Development Goals, which guide the actions of the United Nations on the ground. It is primordial that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is grounded in the normative framework to ensure the inclusiveness and sustainability of the gains over time. In the midst of a demographic revolution, with the number of people aged 55 and over doubling to almost 2 billion, urgent action is required. We need to stand up now for older persons' rights. 

I regret that there seems no sense of urgency. The voices claiming the imperative to adopt a human rights-based approach to ageing, shifting the attention from a societal phenomenon to the older people themselves as rights holders, remain unheard despite the facts and figures. While we aspire to live for as long as possible, we do not want to age. Pervasive gerontophobia, the fear of age-related self-degeneration and death, nurtures prejudice against older people, discrimination and ultimately the denial of human rights in older age.

'The Journey to Age Equality' – this year's motto – should have started many years ago. States have an obligation to promote and protect the human rights of older people. We all are duty bound to ensure that future generations – our children and grandchildren – as they grow older, are seen as valuable contributors to society. Young people, those in positions of power today, need to realise that they too will age. It is for them to shape older people's reality and the future they want." 


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 at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. As a mandate holder, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte is independent from any government or organisation, and serves in her individual capacity.

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.

Read more on the human rights of older persons

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67 / khassine@ohchr.org) or email olderpersons@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / jlaurence@ohchr.org

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts. 

Concerned about the world we live in?

Then STAND UP for someone's rights today.

#Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org