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Letter to OAS Member States on the Financial Crisis at the IACHR

2016

AIDA joins more than 300 organizations in calling on Member States of the Organization of American States to act swiftly in the face of the financial crisis affecting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Our letter calls for urgent action to guarantee the immediate funding of the important human rights institution, as well as for the creation of a sustainable fund to guarantee ongoing financing. Read it below:  

OAS Member States, 

The Coalition for Human Rights in the Americas, and the members of other regional and global networks from civil society, express our deep concern over the severe financial crisis currently affecting the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). We endorse this statement in order to appeal all Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to take the necessary actions to guarantee the immediate and proper funding of the IACHR in order to fulfill its mandate. In addition, we urgently call for the creation of a sustainable fund to finance the Organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System (IHRS), in order to address the precarious situation, which both the Commission and Inter-American Court of Human Rights have been going through since in the last few years.

The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and protection of human rights in the Americas, and acts as a consultative organ to the OAS in this area. It is the only regional mechanism that supervises the obligations of all  Member States of the OAS in this area, and constitutes the last resort for defending against violations of fundamental rights in the continent.

The IACHR is an international referent, due to its great labour of protecting thousands of human rights defenders, who live threatened and criminalized in the Americas. This organ watches over the indigenous people and afro-descendant people’s rights, women and children, and the LGTBI community rights as well, among other vulnerable populations. The role of the IACHR, not only in the area of human rights protection, but also in the implementation of measures to promote their accomplishment, affects almost a billion people across the region.

In spite of that, the Inter-American Commission has historically suffered from a structural lack of funds, which are currently reaching the point of effectively  compromising the Commission's ability to fulfill its basic functions, including its mandate assigned by the OAS Member States. The Commission itself has announced that on July 31st of 2016 the contracts of 40 percent of its personnel will expire, and at this time the Commission does not have the funds—or the expectation of receiving the funds—to be able to renew them. In addition, the IACHR has reported that it has been forced to suspend the country visits it had planned for this year, as well as the 159th and 160th Period of Sessions, which had been scheduled for July and October of this year. 

In contrast with other human rights protection organs, either national or international, the financing received by the IACHR from the regular OAS fund, meaning from the Member States, is contradictory with the countries' wish to aspire to build a more democratic region. In 2016, the regular budget provided by the fund was around $5,4287.9 million dollars, which is 6.44 percent of the annual budget of the OAS – by comparison, the Council of European member States provides 41.5 percent of its annual budget to the promotion and protection of human rights. 

Even though the OAS General Assembly has approved in the past resolutions committing to address this matter, these changes have not materialized with the required increase of resources, that would allow both the Commission and Court – whose budget will be reduced in a third part by the end of the year, if nothing changes – to have with the proper funding to successfully fulfill their mandates.

In addition, the aim of this petition is not only for the IACHR to be able to carry out with the scheduled activities for the current year, to renew the contracts of 40 percent of its staff and to conduct the 159th and 160th Period of Sessions, but also to create a structure for this purpose that converts the funding of those organs into a sustainable practice, significantly increasing the budget that the OAS provides to the Inter-American Human Rights System.

The signing Civil Society organizations see in this crisis a unique opportunity to reinforce the OAS Member States' commitment to human rights in the continent. This is why we call on countries to figure out how to secure a strong and stable funding structure, which effectively guarantees the protective devices and tools that the ISHR provides to millions of people in the Americas.

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