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UN expert urges Costa Rica to protect all groups of older persons, including those abandoned

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SAN JOSE / GENEVA (18 May 2016) – The diversity of the needs of older persons is invisible in current policies related to ageing in Costa Rica despite the existence of good practices in the country, said today the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte.

“Older persons are not a homogenous group,” the expert stressed at the end of her first official visit to the country.

“I urge the authorities to develop and implement specific policies and programmes that take into account the needs of older persons belonging to indigenous peoples, persons of African descent, migrants, those undocumented, among other groups,” she said noting that the recent Constitutional reform that recognises Costa Rica as a multi-ethnic and pluricultural republic is a positive step.

“Those groups remain invisible in current policies related to ageing,” said Ms. Kornfeld-Matte. “Specific measures are required to address the linguistic, cultural and socioeconomic challenges faced by these populations to access social and health care services.”

Costa Rica has a population of about 4.7 million out of which around 9.24 percent are 65 years and above. The figure is projected to rise to 11.5 percent by 2050.

The human rights expert noted that Costa Rica has been a pioneer in Latin America in adopting laws, policies and programmes which include a human rights based approach. Similarly she described the Integral Law for older persons, adopted in 1999, as “an important step to comprehensively address the full spectrum of rights of older persons.”

“However, there is an urgent need to improve the coordination and articulation among the different entities in charge of implementing this law in order to make the protection of the rights of all older persons a reality at the local level,” she added.

Ms. Kornfeld-Matte, who was pleased to know that almost all hospitals in the country have geriatric services, also mentioned the programme ‘Red de Cuido’ as another good example of policies aimed at providing home care services.

Nevertheless, despite this remarkable effort, there are long waiting lists, insufficient emergency services and support for informal caregivers. “Older persons are also being abandoned in hospitals and other care settings and I hope the adoption of the recent policy on older persons living on the street and neglect will revert this current pattern,” she said.

With respect to universal non-contributory pension for all persons aged 65 years or over from the Costa Rican Social Security Department , the expert noted that “the forms and procedures are too complicated, which excludes the most vulnerable groups to perceive these benefits.”

Ms. Kornfeld-Matte urged the Government to simplify such procedures and to reduce the backlog for those waiting for the approval of their pension benefits.” Similarly, she called for appropriate safeguards to protect older persons who are often victims of abuse by their families, in particular financial abuse.

“While I recognize the efforts made by the Government to facilitate free access to public transport, training programs for drivers and accessibility still need to be improved in rural and urban areas,” she said. “Without adequate transportation, older persons do not have access to a series of rights, including health.”

The expert stressed that “older persons have much to contribute to the development of the country and should be seen as such,” and recommended the urgent adoption of a national employment program for older persons who are still willing and able to work.

“In a complementary way, it is also urgent to develop national and local awareness campaigns about the laws, policies and programs on ageing in order to inform older persons about their rights and combat stereotypes and age discrimination,” said the UN Independent Expert.

During her ten-day visit, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte visited San José, Limón, Valle la Estrella, Liberia and Nicoya and met with various Government authorities, non-governmental organisations, older persons themselves and other individuals working with this age group.

A comprehensive report on her findings and recommendations will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September this year.

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. 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.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Costa Rica http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/CRIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva (before and after the visit):
Mr. Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67, khassine@ohchr.org)
Ms. Lydia Gény (+41 22 917 96 06/ lgeny@ohchr.org) or write to olderpersons@ohchr.org.

In Costa Rica (during the visit): Ms. Lydia Gény (+506 7183-8786/ +41 79 444 4078 / lgeny@ohchr.org)/ Ms. Gabriela Rodríguez (+506 22961265/ grodriguez@unfpa.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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