Dementia as a Human Rights Concern

On the 16-17 March health ministers have gathered for the first time to discuss at the highest level dementia as a global challenge.

Ms. Kornfeld – Matte, UN Independent Expert on the rights of older persons has addressed the first Ministerial Conference on Global Action against Dementia Organised by the World Health Organisation in Geneva. She stressed that dementia should be viewed both as a health priority and as a human rights issue demanding comprehensive strategies to tackle it and ensure that the rights of people with dementia are protected in all settings. The Independent Expert has taken a particular interest in aspects of care and autonomy as part of her ongoing mandate. Her annual report is expected in September 2015. In April she plans a visit in Mauritius to examine the state of older people’s rights in the country.

More information about the Independent Expert’s intervention on dementia

For further information you can contact Nena Georgantzi, AGE Legal Officer, 

Created: 23 March 2015

“Dementia, a public health priority and a human rights concern” 

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:

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:

For further information and media requests, please contact Mr. Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67 / or write to

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:

Check the Universal Human Rights Index:

– See more at:


Tell us what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s