The President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CorteIDH), Diego García Sayán, and the Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIHR), Roberto Cuellar today addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the context of the debate in the hemispheric body on the Inter-American Human Rights System (IAHRS).
While Garcia Sayán focused his address on the financial needs of the CorteIDH, Cuellar -who spoke to the Council through a video - focused his words on the urgency of introducing an human rights awareness to the societies of the region, through education.
The event, held at OAS headquarters in Washington DC, is part of the second phase of the process that will culminate in March 2013 at the latest with the debate and eventual approval in a special meeting of the General Assembly of the proposals for the strengthening the Commission, according to the timetable established by the General Assembly of Cochabamba, in June of this year.
Garcia Sayán began his presentation by referring to the importance and scope of the Court, whose decisions, he said, are binding in the countries that recognize its jurisdiction. "In the Americas there are 500 million people living in countries that have recognized the Court," he added, which in his opinion makes it essential that the body be provided an adequate budget for its operation.
In that sense, the President of the institution based in San Jose, Costa Rica, said the initiative presented last week by the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, to provide the IAHRS with a capital fund of one hundred million dollars, "would allow for sustainability in the medium and long term of the Inter-American Human Rights organs." The proposal of the Secretary General of the OAS is to deposit in the Oliver Jackman Fund the resources, which would be financed by funds provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) or the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF). The loan would be repaid by the OAS Member States with quotas proportional to the contributions that they make to the hemispheric organization.
García Sayán recognized in his address the increase in the endowment assigned to the Court in the 2013 budget of the OAS, recently approved by the Member States. “For the first time in the history of the Inter-American Court, it has been assigned a significant percentage increase, of 23 percent, which while not significant in covering the normal operation of the Tribunal, is a constructive signal from the system and the Member States,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said that this is still not enough. "The Court remains the international tribunal with the least resources on the planet, despite the enormous responsibility and the huge geographical area it covers. Of the 4.751 million dollars available next year, 56 percent is covered with the regular funds of the OAS and 8 percent are voluntary contributions from Member Countries - such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Chile. 36 percent comes from international cooperation, from Spain, the Kingdom of Norway and the Kingdom of Denmark, who have recently joined."
The shortfall, added the former Peruvian Foreign Minister, causes weakness in the legal area of the court, because of the 22 lawyers available to the Court, only 10 are funded by the regular fund of the OAS. He also mentioned the need to strengthen the administrative and institutional capacity, and gave as an example the problem of translations, as the Court only has funds to translate from Spanish to English, but cannot afford the cost of translating into French and Portuguese, although the latter is the official language of Brazil, the country with the largest population among those who recognize the jurisdiction of the Court. The Peruvian judge also recalled that the Court's 2011-2015 Strategic Plan envisages "in the medium and long term that the Court will have full-time judges, which is not possible now."
For his part, the Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIHR) said that "human rights education is the mother of the promotion and the culture of human rights in the Americas." "Most countries in the Latin and Caribbean regions of America have universalized the right to education in human rights, by accepting the Protocol of San Salvador, but it still needs to be made compulsory for the 15 other states in the region," said Cuellar.
The head of the organization based in Costa Rica said that the first mission of the Institute is to educate the region on the issue of human rights. "Promotion of the Inter-American System must reach the basic levels of public education, because that is the curricular and methodological tool with the greatest scope for children and youth, who are the future of a more inclusive hemispheric democracy," he said.
"It is unquestionable that as the level of integration of human rights in public education rises - something we have been working on since 2002 – the rates of violence decline and the level of citizenship grows," he added. Then Cuellar explained that as part of the Institute's educational proposal, human rights courses are being implemented in 19 countries of the region for children between 10 and 14 years old.
At the meeting the representatives of Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Spain all took part, the latter as an observer country. All the participants expressed their solidarity with the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, for the health problems he is facing.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event will be available here.
The audio of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.