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The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons

Ms. Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons Ms. Claudia Mahler (Austria) has been working for the German Institute for Human Rights as a senior researcher in the field of economic, social and cultural rights since 2010. She is also a visiting professor at the Alice Salomon Hochschule. From 2001 to 2009, Ms. Mahler conducted research at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Potsdam where her main fields were in human rights education, minority rights and the law of asylum. In 2000, she was appointed as Vice President of the Human Rights Commission for Tyrol and Vorarlberg. She has also worked as a lecturer in the field of human rights law and as a consultant to OHCHR in Geneva. From 1997-2001, she held the position of an assistant at the Leopold-Franzens-University Innsbruck, Austria in the field of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedures. Ms. Mahler received her doctoral degree in 2000.


For human rights purposes, age is not merely a numerical designation, but a social construct based on custom, practice and the perception of the role a person plays in his or her community. The specific vulnerabilities of older persons can be the result of physical and mental conditions, but can also result from the obstacles encountered due to societal perception and the interaction of an individual with his or her environment.

Population ageing constitutes one of the most significant demographic transformations of the 21st century. For the first time in history, humankind will reach a point at which there are fewer children than older persons in the world.

Approximately 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world�s population, are over the age of 60. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of older persons will have doubled reaching 20 per cent of the global population. All regions will be confronted by growing numbers, as follows:

  • The fastest increase will take place in Africa which is projected to reach 215 million persons aged 60 or older by 2050, an almost fourfold increase from current figures, doubling its proportion from 5 per cent of the total population in 2010 to 11 per cent in 2050;
  • While the population of Western Asia remains young, the region is ageing fast. The population aged 60 or older is projected to more than quadruple in the next 40 years, to reach 69 million in 2050. The proportion of persons aged 60 and over is projected to increase to 19 per cent by 2050;
  • The Asia-Pacific region was home to 59 per cent of the world�s elderly population in 2010. It is estimated that the number of older persons in this region will triple in the next 40 years, from 414 million in 2010 to 1.25 billion by 2050. The proportion of people aged 60 and over in the total population will more than double between 2010 and 2050, from 10 per cent to 24 per cent;
  • Similar trends are found in Latin America and the Caribbean where the proportion of persons aged 60 and over will more than double between 2010 and 2050, from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, reaching 188 million persons;
  • Europe had the oldest population of all regions in 2010, and is expected to reach 236 million by 2050. Europe will continue to have the oldest population in the world, with a proportion of older persons that is projected to increase to 34 per cent in 2050.

(Source: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, E/2012/51, 2012)

What are Independent Experts

Independent Experts are appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a thematic or country-specific perspective in all parts of the world. This position is honorary, and the Independent Experts are not members of staff of the United Nations nor paid for their work. They express their views in an independent capacity and do not represent their respective Governments. The independent status of the Independent Expert is crucial in order to be able to fulfil his/her functions in all impartiality.

Since 1979, special mechanisms have been created by the United Nations to examine specific country situations or themes from a human rights perspective. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, replaced by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, has mandated experts to study particular human rights issues. These experts constitute what are known as the United Nations human rights mechanisms or mandates, or the system of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

For more information on the Independent Experts, please refer to:

Terminology management � GA resolution 50/141, para. 14: "Decides that henceforth the term 'older persons' should be substituted for the term 'the elderly', in conformity with the United Nations Principles for Older Persons


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The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons
English | French | Spanish

Independent Expert

Ms. Claudia Mahler
(Austria), May 2020-

Former Independent Expert

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte
(Chile), May 2014- May 2020

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Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons
OHCHR-UNOG CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

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