“Dementia, a public health priority and a human rights concern” – UN expert on older people


GENEVA (16 March 2015) – Older persons with dementia must have their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy respected at all stages of the disease, United Nations expert Rosa Kornfeld-Matte has said today, urging Governments worldwide to effectively integrate a human rights based approach to their global action against dementia.

Ms. Kornfeld-Matte’s call came during her special intervention as human rights expert at the first Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia organized by the World Health Organization in Geneva (16-17 March). For the first time ever, health ministers from around the world have joined experts and civil society representatives to discuss the global challenges posed by dementia.

“Dementia can affect all of us,” warned the Independent Expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. It is estimated that over 47 million people are living with the condition today, with almost eight million new cases of dementia each year.

“It is a public health priority, but it is also a human rights concern,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte said, stressing that the disease is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older persons worldwide. “Dementia is devastating not only for the sufferer, but also for their caregivers, families and society as a whole.”

The human rights expert noted that a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia often results in stigmatization and obstacles to diagnosis and care. Although no treatments are currently available for dementia, there is much that can be done to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers and families, the expert said.

“Persons with dementia, including older persons with this disease, should be able to enjoy their rights and freedoms in any circumstances.” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte concluded. “I call on all States and other stakeholders to effectively adopt a human rights based approach when addressing dementia.”

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.

Human rights of older persons: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/Pages/OlderPersonsIndex.aspx