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Video Statement of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte at the “Tackling elder abuse in Europe: a renewed commitment or a missed opportunity?” Policies and practices in implementing international and EU human rights instruments

15 June 2015

Brussels, 15 June 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address this high level event as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Council of Europe, the European Commission, AGE Platform Europe, and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) for the invitation. My one regret is that I am not able to be with you in person.

Today, we are marking the 10th anniversary of the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day with the question: “Tackling elder abuse in Europe: a renewed commitment or a missed opportunity?

10 years have already passed. What have we done so far? What still lay ahead?

Many positive initiatives have been undertaken.

For instance, in recent years, Europe has taken several steps toward recognizing the urgent need to prevent and fight all forms of elder abuse. I commend the European Union and the Council of Europe for their work in raising public awareness on this important issue. The recent adoption of the Recommendation CM(Rec 2014)2 on the promotion of human rights of older persons is an example of a renewed commitment. Specifically, as European societies continue to age, the numbers affected by elder abuse are likely to increase, and this highlights the need for action to be taken to halt this outrageous violation against human dignity.

At the international level, the recognition of this day as a United Nations Day by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 reflects a consensus among Member States that this health, social and human rights issue needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency, by designing and implementing more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws.

The establishment of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in 2010 is also a positive step as it provides a new forum to discuss and address elder abuse.

The creation of my mandate follows this direction. Since the beginning of my mandate, elder abuse has been one of my priorities. This mandate is guided by the UN Principles for Older Persons, which states that “older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse”. Therefore, elder abuse is a cross-cutting issue included in all activities of this mandate.

For instance, in the first report that I presented to the Human Rights Council last year, I have put forth a comprehensive approach to ageing, which included pressing issues such as the right of older persons to live free from abuse and violence in any circumstance.

Moreover, the three official country visits to Slovenia, Austria and Mauritius, that I conducted after receiving the invitation of the respective Governments allowed me to assess how those States have, so far, addressed the issue of elder abuse, through a deep analysis of laws, policies, programmes and strategies and the identification of gaps as well as good practices. The reports of these official visits, with conclusions and recommendations, will be shared with all of you in September of this year.

In the exercise of my mandate, I have also been requested to assess the human rights implications of the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. The adoption of this plan represents a global political commitment to tackle elder abuse. It recommends actions such as the establishment of health and social services, the development of training programs for caring professions and the empowerment of older persons. This plan also encourages research and cooperation.  In fact, more data, research and analysis are needed to better assess the current situation. The global scale of the problem of elder abuse is still unknown.

I would like take this opportunity to commend all States and stakeholders that have already sent responses to my questionnaire. This questionnaire is aimed at collecting information and assessing whether this Plan has enhanced the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, including regarding the elimination of elder abuse. I invite those who have not yet responded to send their inputs. Considering the lack of information and data, all responses will be extremely helpful and will contribute to the comprehensive report that I will present next year to the Human Rights Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To ensure the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, I will need the continuous support of all of you in order to receive diverse sources of information, policy research, evaluation of interventions and data. Today’s event is an important occasion to strengthen cooperation and renew our commitments to the global cause of promoting and protecting the rights of older persons and fighting all forms of abuse and violence against them. We must not fail in seizing the opportunity.

I thank you for your attention and wish you a fruitful and inspiring discussion over the next two days.