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Discussing older people's rights with the new UN Independent Expert

14 Jul 2014

From my trip: with Rosita, Silvia Gascon, HelpAge board member and Joost Martens, Regional Director for Latin America and Caribbean.It was very exciting to meet Rosita Kornfeld Matte, the new Independent Expert on the full enjoyment of the human rights of all older persons and her assistant Carmen Luz Bellotti in Santiago, Chile last week.

Rosita only took up her new role three months ago, but has already developed a focused plan for the next few months and beyond. This comes from her expertise on ageing and the rights of older people, but also from her experience of working with government, civil society and universities.

She shared her views on the importance of focusing on areas in which older people's rights are most at risk; in particular when older people lose autonomy in their decision making. Her experience working with older people in institutional settings as well as in families and communities, where the vast majority of people in old age live, is invaluable for this new role.

Priority areas of work

The areas that Rosita is planning to study in greater depth include:

  • older people's access to justice
  • good practice that protects older people from abuse
  • legislation that countries have in place to protect the right of autonomy in old age

We discussed the lack of access many older people have to basic income, health and care services across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We agreed that the right to social protection, including access to a basic pension and health services is paramount. We also touched on the impact of a life lived in poverty and the multiple discriminations faced by older people, particularly older women.

Support from the HelpAge network

To understand these contexts, Rosita is interested in working with governments, civil society, universities and the private sector. The HelpAge network, which is working with the Global Alliance For the Rights of Older People, the NGO Committees on Ageing in Geneva and New York and many other organisations, can assist Rosita in her role.

The older people's associations we work with in Asia and Africa and respond to older people's needs could also be helpful. I also shared that older people at all levels are engaging with their governments to ensure their rights are met, particularly through our Age Demands Action campaign.

Upcoming events and opportunities

There are many more upcoming opportunities for us to work Rosita, including Age International and Age UK initiatives around the UK government's leadership of the G8 initiative on dementia and our Otto! conference in Berlin this October which will celebrate 125 years of the influential Bismarck contributory pension system.

Finally, as we discussed the importance of the collection and analysis of age and gender disaggregated data to monitor the wellbeing of older people, we looked forward to the second edition of the Global AgeWatch Index this October. This will highlight the urgency of addressing global ageing, as this century's most significant challenge and opportunity.

Find out more about our work on older people's rights.

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Author profile

Silvia Stefanoni
Job title: Deputy CEO, Director of Policy and Programmes

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.