Press Release

IACHR Presents Financial Projections for 2017 and Opens Dialogue to Raise Funds to Defend and Protect Human Rights in the Region

January 11, 2017

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Washington, D.C.— In 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) faced its most serious financial crisis, and every possible step should be taken to prevent that situation from repeating itself.  

In light of the crisis, in June 2016 the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), in its regular session held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, approved Resolution AG/RES. 2887 (XLVI-O/16), “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights,” in which the Member States expressed their determination to address the problem of insufficient funding. In that resolution, adopted on June 14, 2016, the General Assembly resolved to “reaffirm its commitment to attain full financing of the IACHR through the Regular Fund of the OAS, without prejudice to the financing of the other mandates of the Organization.” 

That General Assembly session in the Dominican Republic instructed the OAS General Secretariat to include in its program-budget for 2017, through consultations with the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court, measures to address the critical financial situation of those bodies and to submit proposals to strengthen their financial sustainability in the medium and long term. Thus, for the first time the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights developed a joint proposal to adequately and sustainably finance the inter-American human rights system. The proposal was sent to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and to the Member States on September 30, 2016, as announced in Press Release No. 146/16. 

Finally, in a special session to approve the budget on October 31, 2016, the OAS General Assembly decided to maintain the same, insufficient level of resources for the two bodies of the inter-American human rights system. The Commission values and appreciates the efforts involved in the tentative proposals submitted by Mexico and Argentina that were discussed at this time. Nevertheless, in the resolution adopting the program-budget for 2017 the Member States expressly recognized the financial crisis, specifically by maintaining the Regular Fund resources earmarked for the two human rights bodies. In addition, in Resolution AG/RES. 2 (LI-E/16), the General Assembly approved an emergency clause instructing the Secretary General and the Permanent Council to “review funding schemes to support the organs of the inter-American human rights system when budgetary issues arise that jeopardize their ability to carry out their activities.” 

Along these lines, given that the regular cost for the IACHR to maintain its current structure and essential functional capacity is more than $11,500,000 and that it was allocated $5,643,000 in the 2017 OAS budget, the IACHR projects a deficit of approximately $6,000,000 for 2017, which suggests that its operations this year will face new risk. 

To initiate an urgent dialogue concerning the allocation of additional resources by the OAS that would enable the IACHR to address a financial crisis such as the one in 2016 that seriously jeopardized its capacity to operate, the President of the IACHR, Commissioner James Cavallaro, sent a letter to the Chair of the Permanent Council and the OAS Secretary General on December 14, 2016, in which he announced the precarious situation the IACHR will face in 2017. 

In the December 15, 2016, meeting of the Permanent Council, the delegations of the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Grenada, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay presented a statement recognizing “the importance of the work carried out by the independent and autonomous organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System.” The statement reiterated the OAS Member States’ intention “to generate broad and inclusive consultations to allow us to reach outcomes that ensure the full financing of the organs of the System, so as to avoid new crisis situations that jeopardize their ability to carry out their mandates.” 

The Commission thanks these States for their efforts to immediately seek an emergency solution to avoid a new financial crisis, and hopes that this dialogue can get underway at the beginning of this year, under the terms of the clear emergency clause specified at the special session of the General Assembly on October 31, 2016. 

At the same time, the IACHR continues to trust that a structural and lasting financial solution can be reached, and reiterates the proposal it presented in conjunction with the Inter-American Court for discussion at the next regular session of the General Assembly, scheduled to take place in June in Mexico, in which guidelines for the 2018 program-budget will be defined. 

“The political statement by 22 Member States of the OAS is a timely gesture to find an urgent solution and avoid a new crisis,” IACHR President Cavallaro said. “We hope that the OAS Permanent Council will address the situation and authorize a reinforcement of the resources allocated for 2017 and that the General Assembly in Mexico will be able to come up with structural solutions to ensure the complete and sustainable financing of the bodies of the inter-American human rights system beginning in 2018.” 

To overcome its budget deficit for 2017, the IACHR needs and hopes to receive important voluntary contributions from OAS Member States, observer countries, and other donors, in amounts similar to those received in 2016. So far, the IACHR has already been ensured that it will receive voluntary contributions from the following Member States in 2017: United States ($2,100,000), and Panama ($150,000). Uruguay and Argentina have announced their willingness to host a session of the IACHR. In addition, Canada has been in discussions with the Commission on this issue and the IACHR has submitted a detailed financing proposal for Canada to evaluate. Non-member States and other donors have also indicated that they will contribute: Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, the Trust for the Americas, and the Pan American Development Foundation. The IACHR deeply appreciates this support, which will allow it to plan and guarantee its activities during the first part of the year. It looks forward to the mobilization of the other States that are committed to the inter-American human rights system so that it can receive the funds needed to cover the total deficit projected for 2017. 

For his part, the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, stated, “We have organized and planned and have taken steps and initiated contacts to avert a new crisis, but whether we can do so depends not only on the IACHR but also on donors. The fact that half of the IACHR’s budget comes from voluntary donations compromises part of our ability to operate sustainably and predictably. As a transparency measure, we are announcing our deficit as of now and opening all doors to dialogue to strengthen our full autonomy and independence.” 

Besides seeking a stable funding model, the IACHR has historically and legitimately aspired to have a larger and more adequate budget that would enable it to strengthen its ability to work and fulfill its comprehensive mandate to promote, defend, monitor, and protect human rights in the hemisphere, with a focus on helping victims. 

The IACHR is open to suggestions from everyone about strategies and creative ways to mobilize new financial resources. It calls on all those who are committed to avoiding setbacks and achieving progress on human rights, and to making human rights the main criterion for overall governance and coexistence, to join the effort to ensure that the Commission’s funding is stronger and more sustainable and predictable.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.


Press release modified on January 12, 2017

No. 001/17