Remarks by the IACHR President


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October 19, 2016

Chair of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Audrey Marks, Permanent Representative of Jamaica.

President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Judge Roberto Caldas.

Mr. Secretary General, Luis Almagro.

Distinguished Delegates of the member states and observers of the Organization,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my capacity as Chair of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”, “Inter-American Commission” or “IACHR”), together with the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the “Court”), we consider it to be of the utmost importance to present to this Permanent Council the proposal we have drafted jointly.

The aim of this proposal is to collaborate with the States in the effort to find a financial solution to the economic difficulties that both organs are facing, in light of what was decided at the last OAS General Assembly.

In this regard, I would like to begin by thanking the Chair of the [Permanent] Council for her prompt response to our request and for providing us this opportunity to speak here today.

The proposal submitted to Secretary General Almagro and all delegations of the member states on September 30th last is grounded in the following principles, jointly agreed upon by both organs of the Inter-American Human Rights system:

  • That, the principle governing the determination of the budget allocated to the two organs should [ensure that this budget] is sufficient for the organs to fully comply with their human rights mandate with full autonomy and independence. This would allow us to plan and work sustainably in keeping with the demand for protection and promotion of human rights in the hemisphere.
  • That, at a minimum, the overall budget allocated to the organs of the inter-American human rights system—i.e., the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—be doubled.
  • That additional resources allocated at this time to the inter-American system’s current budget be distributed in the following manner: 57% for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and 43% for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
  • That, these new resources should be annual and mandatory for all member states of the Organization in order to provide predictability and stability for the appropriate functioning of both organs.
  • That, these new resources allocated to the Commission and the Court not exclude voluntary contributions made by member states, observer countries, or other sources and initiatives to strengthen financial sustainability and full operation of these organs.

The current 2017 draft program-budget envisages allocating the inter-American system a total of US$8,390,500.

The joint proposal of the organs identifies the need to increase this allocation to at least US$18,204,450. This amount would be distributed in the following manner: US$11,228,250 for the Commission (62% of the total); and US$6,976,200 for the Court (38% of the total).

It is noteworthy that, in keeping with the estimates made in the First IACHR Strategic Plan covering 2011-2015, in order to fully comply with all mandates and functions of the IACHR in a timely manner, an annual budget of US$35,000,000 is required.

This is because the IACHR’s jurisdiction includes the 35 countries of our region with regard to which it exercises its broad mandate of protecting, monitoring, and promoting human rights.

Solely with regard to the protection mandate, the IACHR system of individual petitions currently receives more than 2,000 petitions a year; it has 1,723 petitions in the admissibility stage, 521 cases in the merits stage, and 118 matters in friendly settlement proceedings, in addition to 166 cases whose recommendations or friendly settlement agreements are being monitored. Furthermore, the Commission receives more than 800 requests for precautionary measures, and has granted 381 precautionary measures, the implementation of which is being follow up on.

As for the monitoring responsibility that is provided for under the American Convention on Human Rights, the IACHR’s current goal is to conduct at least one on-site visit a year with its corresponding country report, and at a minimum 7 working visits.

As to human rights promotion, there is a set of initiatives to broaden technical support to the States for training, research, and cooperation in implementing the inter-American system’s standards.

Indeed, in the 2011-2016 Plan, which is available to the public, the IACHR listed the results that it could achieve given different ideal budget scenarios.

Unfortunately, we are aware that the Organization’s financial reality means that at this point projecting a suitable budget for the IACHR’s full functioning is a referential exercise.

It is for this reason that we have presented a realistic proposal with a minimum budget aimed at maintaining the work capacity we have had over the last 5 years, thanks to the combined contributions of the Regular Fund and Specific Funds. In recent years, the IACHR budget has fluctuated between a little under US$9 million in 2015 to over US$11 million in 2013, and this latter amount is what the IACHR would like to have the OAS Regular Fund provide it. With this minimum amount as a benchmark, we seek to ensure better sustainability and predictability to the activities of the organs’ system. We likewise seek to improve its capacity for planning and to implement results-based management.

I reiterate that said sum covers the current operations of the IACHR. Therefore, although there is an increase in allocations from the Regular Fund, the IACHR will continue requesting voluntary contributions to achieve the goal of fully complying with its mandate. Thus, it will continue asking for bilateral support from States and donors committed to promoting the observance of human rights in the region.

In that regard, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights appreciates the proposals presented by the members states to increase funding for the inter-American system’s organs in keeping with the mandate handed down by the last General Assembly.

In said proposals, the IACHR notes very positive components that aim to identify specific solutions to the structural problem of lack of resources. The IACHR further notes that efforts to find a short-term solution and an effective structural response to the medium- and long-term financial situation are complementary.

Esteemed delegates, ambassadors, the 2016 economic situation, in the context of the most serious global humanitarian crisis of this century, compelled us to report an historical financial crisis, about which I informed this honorable Council in my presentation on May 25th last. I must say that it has not been easy for the Commission, the petitioners, the victims, or for the States in the last months.

In this context, I would like to reiterate my gratitude to all the States that have publically conveyed their support for the Commission, as well as acknowledge the expressions of support from international organizations, civil society organizations and networks, and individuals from different corners of the region. In particular I would especially like to thank Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, the United States, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay for their contributions. Beyond offering contributions, Chile and Panama have also stepped up to the plate to host and ensure our sessions. I would like to also acknowledge the contributions made by the European Commission, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Fundación Arcus, Cammina, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Finally, my thanks to Canada, which requested that we formally draw up a financing proposal, which we recently presented.

For us, the financial crisis is not political rhetoric. We announced the end of the 2016 crisis once we had achieved the necessary amounts received to resolve the two imminent risks that we were facing: the possibility of cancelling a regular session for the first time in the history of the OAS; and the loss of over half our work team that we have to undertake our current activities. We did it to comply with our commitment to the truth, our duty to transparency, and to recognize the financial effort that the member states and other donors made to help resolve the emergency. Once again, we thank all those who helped to prevent these two imminent reversals in 2016.

We know—and it is necessary to emphasize—that overcoming the 2016 financial situation and successfully preventing the serious reversals that were looming on the horizon does not at all mean that we have resolved the critical situation of the historic structural deficit in financing the inter-American system. Currently, the objective factors that led to the crisis are still on the public stage: the decrease in voluntary contributions, the increase in demand by the system’s users; the historically minimal institutional conditions for compliance with our functions set forth in the inter-American human rights instruments.

For this reason, we commend the efforts of the States beginning with the General Assembly in the Dominican Republic to seek a permanent and definitive solution to the issue. We have seen the sincere readiness on the part of the States to immediately find a structural solution to the inter-American system’s financial situation. This is a great relief, which will be duly celebrated by the entire international human rights community.

To conclude this point, I wanted to highlight that we have sent our joint proposal to the States by means of a formal note, technically explaining its content.


Furthermore, in keeping with the best principles of pubic communication, which must use accessible language in order to effectively reach the simplest and most humble individuals, we have recently used a soccer-related metaphor in order to explain to them that were are at a crucial moment in which the initiative will be on the part of the States.

But the truth is that what we want is for “the ball” to be back as soon as possible in our court, that of the organs of the inter-American system, so that we can appropriately fulfill our mandates. Our willingness and commitment to the victims of human rights violations in our region lays out a vast agenda for us that can be accomplished.

With a regular budget that effectively covers the entirety of the IACHR’s minimal operations we will achieve the desired predictability and institutional stability. The stability and predictability of funding will enable us, finally, to draw up a plan for executing regular funding, which entails, at least three sets of actions.

1.         Improve efficiency of the current administrative management. With objective planning conditions ensured, it is always possible to do more and better work with the resources we have. A specific example are the measures we have taken to overcome the backlog in the system of cases and petitions in order to be achieve greater swiftness. In this regard, yesterday we announced the results of a set of measures taken to resolve the backlog in the review stage. It is worthwhile highlighting the evaluation of a total of 6,405 petitions in the last two years, an unprecedented result in the history of the system of cases and petitions. Furthermore, a series of additional measures were announced which we intend to implement in the short- and medium-term in order to address the delay in the admissibility and merits stages. Based on a new financial reality the IACHR proposes:

  • strengthening the structure of the department of institutional development and administrative affairs;
  • establishing a plan of priorities to identify essential tasks;
  • promoting an assessment regarding the quality of current expenditures and their use;
  • using micromanagement measures to redesign and optimize the internal division of labor;
  • making progress on complementary actions with international, regional, and subregional human rights systems;
  • investing in the area of technology to create new systems to make headway in computerizing current flows and procedures; and
  • adopting a policy of active transparency and information management.

2. Consider legitimate expectations that have historically been limited. Simply having budget predictability and stability will enable the IACHR to address classic issues, such as:

  • the balance between the protection, monitoring, and promotion pillars;
  • the balance between the thematic rapporteurships;
  • putting into operation the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights;
  • bolstering the capacity to provide advice to the States for national strengthening to comply with the standards of the inter-American system, as well as to undertake technical cooperation for the exchange of best practices in advocating for human rights; and
  • strengthening and prioritizing friendly settlement proceedings for individual cases and petitions.

3. Undertake new actions and initiatives. The definition of new actions and initiatives in the work of the IACHR must be done through a participatory and dialogue-based process to prepare its new strategic plan. I would like to avail myself of this occasion to announce with satisfaction that, in follow-up to the commitments undertaken by the IACHR, we will be launching the process of preparing the 2017-2020 strategic plan. To this end the Commission will use a methodology designed to ensure the engagement of the inter-American system’s users in order to consider their perspectives in defining priorities and expected outcomes for the next four years. The Commission intends to conduct this collective and participatory preparation exercise through a series of regional consultations and discussion-based workshops with State representatives, civil society, academic experts, donors, international organizations, and organs of the OAS. As a result of this joint effort, a document will be prepared that aims to strengthen the Commission’s capacity to fulfill its mandate through clear goals and measurable results. Finally, the Commission aims to effectively implement a strategic plan that is subject to progress evaluations, transparency measures, and regular accountability checks.

In the last five months, in my capacity as Chair of the IACHR, I have made countless overtures and knocked on different doors, to which end I have participated in forums and meetings that have taken place in different countries in and outside of our region. I would like to share with you my tremendous satisfaction regarding the acknowledgement by myriad countries and prestigious institutions all over the world of the inter-American system’s significance. A system considered essential because it is a pacesetter as regards human rights protection and promotion. These acknowledgements transcend the work of the system’s organs and provide the Organization of American States in its entirety legitimacy and relevance.

At the same time, I have been asked repeatedly at these forums whether the States of the Americas recognize the work of the Commission and the Court. I tell them they do and cite the resolutions of support from the General Assembly, the statements of support from States, and the proposals being discussed.

And invariably they ask me, “What concrete measures are the States adopting to address the critical financial situation of their own human rights system in the medium- and long-term?”

Distinguished representatives, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to be able to answer that the States of the Americas have agreed on a structural financial solution for their human rights system and that it will be disseminated shortly in the future. To that end, the proposals presented today represent an extremely important step in making headway towards a common, minimum standard of rights for the individuals of our region, bolstering our commitment to the victims, and affirming human rights as an essential criterion for hemispheric governance.

We hope we can count on your support.

Thank you very much for your attention.