Permanent Observers are vital partners in carrying out the OAS mission by providing support to key programs and by linking the Americas to the global community. Through their participation at the OAS, Observer countries further the efforts of the Organization to strengthen democracy, defend human rights, promote access to justice, ensure a multidimensional approach to security, and foster integral development.
OAS Permanent Observers have access to a diverse, multilateral diplomatic forum and contribute to the rich dialogue on international topics. OAS cooperation with Permanent Observers includes: financial contributions dedicated to particular projects and priority areas; technical assistance, such as the secondment of experts, professional training opportunities, and sharing of best practices; as well as academic scholarships. Through these methods, Permanent Observers contributed US$16.2 million in financial and in-kind contributions to OAS priority programs in 2014.
This publication provides an overview of the concrete results achieved by the OAS in 2014 thanks to the essential collaboration and support from Observer countries. It also serves to underscore the many tangible ways that the OAS and Permanent Observers cooperate to fulfill their role as strategic partners for the benefit of the Americas.
Permanent Observers provided support to member state efforts to strengthen democracy and democratic sustainability in the Americas by supporting electoral processes, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and effective public management in securing people’s rights to a civil identity.
-Electoral Observation and Cooperation-
Through the support received from France, Israel, Korea, Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, in 2014 the OAS carried out important Electoral Observation Missions (EOM) in Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Panama and Peru. These missions include recommendations to OAS member states on how to strengthen their electoral processes and systems.
With critical support from Korea and Turkey, the project “Creation of an OAS-sponsored Electoral Accreditation Body for Electoral Authorities against ISO Electoral Standards” succeeded in the creation of the International Electoral Accreditation Body (IEAB), the development of a web-based customer management information system and training modules for professionals working with the IEAB, as well as the finalization of an IEAB Assessment Methodology and Certification Manual. The IEAB is a new global resource for upgrading democratic elections.
-Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts-
In 2014, Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom contributed to peace and stability in Colombia through their contribution to the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP-OAS). Through a cooperation agreement signed with Germany, the MAPP is strengthening its work to support victims of the conflict under the framework of Justice and Peace, as well as its ability to monitor land restitution and public safety. The Swiss government supported the MAPP/OAS to carry out a ground-breaking historical analysis of the actors involved in the conflict and the conditions necessary for reconciliation. The United Kingdom contributed to MAPP/OAS efforts to help women victims of the conflict. They also supported efforts to guarantee that women participate in public policy decisions. In addition, Germany and Switzerland provided additional support to the MAPP through the secondment of their experts to serve in the field verification, conflict resolution and the transitional justice initiatives.
The rapprochement between the governments and peoples of Belize and Guatemala continues as a result of the negotiations advanced by the OAS General Secretariat, with the support of donor countries to the OAS Peace Fund, including the European Union, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The adoption of the Roadmap Agreement in January 2014 and the negotiation of 16 landmark bilateral agreements in less than 12 months improved relations to a level that few thought possible. During these important diplomatic negotiations, the OAS Office of the Adjacency Zone worked tirelessly to promote peace and prevent any escalation of the conflict through promoting the bonds of friendship and cooperation on the ground.
-Strengthening Governance and Effective Public Management-
Financial support from Switzerland and Japan contributed to the OAS’ ongoing work by the Universal Civil Identity Project of the Americas (PUICA in Spanish) with the Haitian National Office of Identification to effectively and efficiently consolidate, modernize and institutionalize its capacity to maintain a unified, national registration and identification system that is sustainable, universally accessible, secure and non-discriminatory for all people in Haiti. This project has resulted in the printing and delivery of over 368,000 new identity cards, many made available through the implementation of mobile units and call centers. Germany also provided a major contribution to the PUICA program in 2014 to continue its work in the promotion of the right to an identity in Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru. Identity cards are an essential step in achieving voter rights and access to needed social services.
Defending Human Rights
The Inter-American Human Rights system, which includes the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, benefited tremendously from the contributions of Permanent Observers to promote the observance and protection of human rights in the Americas. In 2014, the Netherlands, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Norway, Germany and Switzerland contributed to the IACHR, the Court and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.
With the support of the Netherlands, the IACHR has substantially expanded its work on the promotion of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons. As a result, the IACHR launched the findings of its Registry of Violence, a fifteen-month review of acts of violence against LGBT persons, and was able to increase its capacity to support Member States in the adjudication process of LGBTI-related cases.
Denmark has supported a comprehensive program to increase the respect of human rights of persons historically discriminated and excluded such as women, indigenous peoples and persons in vulnerable conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The IACHR issued concrete recommendations to and requested actions by these States to strengthen their policies to promote and protect human rights of these groups.
The European Union contributed to project “Supporting and Strengthening the Work of the Inter-American Human Rights System through the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Most Vulnerable and Excluded Groups and Communities in the Americas”. With this support, the IACHR was able to visit the southern border of the United States to monitor and report on the human rights situation of unaccompanied children and families and to assess more than 240 petitions from individuals and groups historically subject to discrimination.
Finland contributed to the project “Strengthening Freedom of Expression in the Americas”, which led to the enactment of two new laws on access to public information in Colombia and Paraguay; the granting of constitutional autonomy to the Federal Institute of Access to Public Information of Mexico, and the approval of the Internet’s Civil Framework in Brazil. The project provided concrete technical assistance on the law on Audiovisual Communication Services in Uruguay, with greater guarantees for the exercise of freedom of expression; and the Telecommunications Law in Mexico, which introduced important and positive changes to the legal framework.
France contributed to engagement by senior IACHR authorities in key activities throughout the Hemisphere, particularly in Brazil and Mexico. It also made possible needed improvements to accessing information in archives and case files of the Commission.
With contributions from Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein and Monaco, the Inter-American Commission of Women developed and implemented the on-line course “Gender Justice for the Rights of Women,” which provides justice administration officials with the basic knowledge and analytical tools necessary for the effective protection of women’s human rights, on the basis of agreed commitments at the inter-American and international levels. The course is now self-sustaining and as such will be able to continue to benefit countries in the future.
Facilitating Access to Justice
-Inter-American Program of Judicial Facilitators-
With vital contributions from the Netherlands and Spain, in 2014 the Inter-American Program of Judicial Facilitators expanded to advance its objectives from seven to eight countries: Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Paraguay. Last year, this innovative program’s network increased to include 9,139 facilitators, 40% of whom are women, and all of whom are local volunteer leaders selected by their communities and trained and supervised by local judges. In addition, 36,000 access-to-justice services were provided by judicial authorities or submitted by facilitators, while 124,000 prevention services (advisory and mediation) were given, and more than 246,000 persons were informed about juridical norms and their rights. The Program also trained over 1,950 justice facilitators at the postgraduate and masters level in an alliance with seven local universities.
Ensuring a Multidimensional Approach to Security
With support from Spain, the program “Salud y Vida en Las Américas (SAVIA)”, an initiative of the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD in Spanish), strengthened Member States’ efforts to adapt drug policies to local communities. This important project is developing methodologies and good local management practices to treat drug addiction and involve citizens from across the region in the formation of drug policy in their own communities.
Thanks to Belgium’s sponsorship, the OAS Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (AICMA in Spanish) implemented a landmine victim assistance project for landmine survivors in Ecuador and Peru. Through the project, AICMA provided physical and psychological rehabilitation services for 50 of 130 registered landmine survivors in Peru and for all Ecuadorian landmine survivors remaining in need of assistance, including support for their socio-economic reinsertion. Through the Belgian contribution and earlier mine action projects, the OAS was able to support national mine action authorities in establishing and leaving in place processes for victim assistance and humanitarian demining procedures that can be used as both countries assume national ownership of their mine action programs.
In 2014, the Government of Italy supported AICMA in assisting 51 Colombian landmine survivors with their socio-economic reintegration into their communities, including physical and psychosocial rehabilitation, vocational training and higher education. AICMA also worked with Colombian organizations to offer opportunities to landmine survivors to participate in reinsertion activities such as serving as volunteer coaches for sports teams of men and women with disabilities, the organization of sporting events for the disabled, and raising public awareness.
In 2014, Estonia and the OAS signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the development of cyber security capabilities in the Americas, via the Estonian Information System Authority. In this framework, Estonia contributed to assessing cyber security capabilities in Colombia, and participated in the formulation of a series of recommendations that were presented to high-level government authorities. Estonian specialists also worked with the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) on the Computer Incident Response Teams (CSIRT), participated in high-level dialogues on “Cyber Threat Landscape,” organized a course on “Cyber Forensics and CSIRT Establishment” in Dominica, shared Estonia’s experience in establishing incident response capabilities, delivered a course on “Cyber Incident Investigation and Analysis” in Jamaica, and participated in a regional workshop on Cyber Security Policies.
Through a contribution from the United Kingdom to the project “Strengthening Cyber Security in the Americas (Caribbean sub-region), the OAS was able to enhance governmental cyber security capacities in Dominica, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in order to mitigate cyber risk for open and reliable Internet. This support led to significant achievements in three areas of cyber security: national strategy development; awareness-raising and incident response capacity.
In 2014, the Government of Spain seconded a highly-qualified official to CICTE to support two important areas of CICTE’s work: the Program of Implementation of Resolution 1540 of the United Nations Security Council against the Proliferation of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons and the Program of Legislative Assistance and Combat against Terrorism Financing.
-Strategic approaches to dealing with conflict and violence-
With the 2014 contribution of Serbia, the OAS Secretariat for Multidimensional Security partnered with the United Nations, the European Union and the International Development Research Centre to address how to confront unconventional conflicts and violence in the Americas. These discussions have led to the creation of a network of practitioners, an inventory of analytical material and a toolkit of principles for moving forward to take concrete steps to reduce violence across the Hemisphere.
Fostering Integral Development
-Human Development and Education-
In 2014, Belgium, the Netherlands, the People’s Republic of China, and Spain contributed more than 150 scholarships for professional and academic development opportunities for citizens of the Americas, while also encouraging important intercultural exchanges between their countries and the region.
Through the project “Inquiry-Based Learning in Higher Education Curricula as a Tool for Integral Development”, the People’s Republic of China and Turkey supported the development and delivery of a blended course on inquiry-based learning for Central American academic coordinators of higher education institutions to address growing demands on higher education institutions for modern teaching techniques.
In the area of Disaster Risk Management, the People’s Republic of China in 2014 supported the OAS program of “Strengthening Decision Support Systems for Disaster Risk Management in Central America and the Caribbean,” which produced tangible results in Honduras with the publication of a manual for flood Early Warning Systems; the training of IT personnel in the use of an on-line database for EWS; and the documentation of an inter-municipal EWS for floods in the Atlantic Coast of Honduras to draw lessons learned and practical experience for future inter-municipal Early Warning Systems.
-Economic and Social Development-
The contribution of the People's Republic of China allowed the OAS, along with other donors, to work with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to develop the Continuous Reporting System on International Migration in the Americas (SICREMI). This report provides substantive and rigorously documented input for policymakers to carry out informed discussions on international migration in the Americas. The report "International Migration in the Americas" is unique for its extensive hemispheric coverage (20 Member States of the OAS), its contents (statistics on migration flows, regulatory frameworks and public policies on migration) and the continuous updating of data via a network of national government correspondents.
Through the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), the OAS has worked for over 13 years with Israel in fostering entrepreneurship as a means to promote social and economic development among young people across the Americas. Through a 2012-2014 cooperation agreement, YABT and Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV), and the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC) have carried out 54 capacity building workshops in 14 Latin American countries and 18 Caribbean countries benefitting 769 people. Also, MASHAV and MCTC, with the support of YABT, have coordinated 6 study visits in Israel in both English and Spanish where 130 professionals from various sectors have had the opportunity to acquire new tools and understanding of support systems, micro-enterprise management, and innovation. Moreover, YABT with the support of MASHAV and MCTC trainers have carried out 25 virtual classes on innovation and entrepreneurship for more than 5,000 people.