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Déclarations Procédures spéciales

Statement of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons on “Elder Abuse and Violence Against Women: A Global Crisis”

12 septembre 2014

12 September 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by reiterating how honoured I am to participate in this side event organized by the Permanent Mission of the United States. I am pleased to share this table with so prominent experts from diverse backgrounds. I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you some observations regarding the issue of the abuse of older persons.

Although there is not yet an accepted universal definition, the term “abuse” should encompass various practices such as physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and financial aspects. By adopting this broad approach, it will be possible to maximize and join efforts in order to address the commonalities between violence and abuse.

Practices of abuse can be the result of social, economic, cultural and political structures that lead directly or indirectly to the marginalization of older persons. Therefore, it is important to consider the abuse of older persons as part of our objective to improve the conditions of life of older persons and to promote their dignity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are many opportunities to identify the ways in which abuse against older persons cuts across sectors.
Several positive initiatives have already beenundertaken by the United Nations:

- The Secretary-General of the United Nations in a recent report to the General Assembly (A/68/167) gave a brief overview of the progress and the remaining challenges since the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

- Other mandate holders have also mentioned the issue of abuse in their reports. For instance, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has reported violence against older persons in both care facilities and domestic settings (A/HRC/18/37). The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences has also contributed to this discussion, especially regarding abuse against older women in public and private spheres.

- Treaty bodies, such as the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, also mentioned in its General Recommendation No. 27, the importance of having a broad approach to effectively prevent and combat the multiplicity of forms of abuse against older women.

- More recently, the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing has included this issue in its discussions. For instance, during the 5th working session, a specific panel was dedicated to the abuse of older persons, with particular attention to older women.

All of these concerns have come together in the celebration, on 15 June, of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
The recent creation of my mandate follows in this direction. According to Human Rights Council resolution 24/20, I have been tasked to identify both best practices as well as gaps in the implementation of existing law related to the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons. In the exercise of my mandate, I will address the issue of the abuse of older persons as one of my priorities.

In addition, I have been mandated to integrate a gender and disability perspective into my work. This will allow me to pay particular attention to older women, older women with disabilities and older women suffering from dementia. I will also raise awareness of the challenges they face.

In this sense, one of the main challenges that we have is the lack of research, data and analysis of the effectiveness of policies. This is an important point that should be taken into consideration as we progress.

Closely related is the difficulty of detecting cases of abuse. Detection mainly depends on awareness, knowledge and understanding of families, societies and governments. It also relies upon the exhibition and evidence of mistreatment of victims. There are many barriers that should be identified in order to attend to the needs of older persons on this issue.

Another point that we should consider is the implementation of preventive mechanisms. This depends on the development of national policies related to ageism. Where laws already exist, it is important to assess if they have been implemented at all levels, and in all areas, including in the health, social, criminal and housing sectors.

Furthermore, States should offer public education and training programmes as part of efforts of raising awareness to sensitize societies. These should include programmes for informal or formal caregivers, in care homes and hospitals. It should also include workers in social services, public administrations, police authorities and officials of courts that should be able to protect the victims and hold the perpetrator accountable for their acts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will present to the Human Rights Council a comprehensive report of current practices at the end of the three years for which the mandate has been established. The issue of abuse will be part of this report as it is important to include a human rights perspective when we assess the situations and help the establishment of State responses.

For that, I will need the support of all of you in order to receive diverse sources of information, policy research, evaluation of interventions and data. The cooperation of all stakeholders from all regions is very importance for this mandate.

I thank you very much for your attention.