Press Release

The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) presents a report on its results in 2018 and, together with the IACHR, calls for a commitment to its strengthening

February 27, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) began its work at the end of August 2017. The achievements made during its first tasks and throughout 2018, confirm the historical value of the IACHR's decision to implement it; in order to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in its entirety, in accordance with the principles of indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation required for the effective implementation of the human dignity, in its intrinsic relationship with democracy, development and the environment.

Thus, the first year of work of the Rapporteurship has been key to identifying the profile and strategic orientation of the mandate. In compliance with its function of promoting and protecting economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in the Americas, SRESCER prepared its first work plan and strategic agenda around the countries of the region, based on the Strategic Plan of the IACHR, as of the consultations and spaces led by the mandate itself. Among them, it highlighted the open consultation developed in the framework of the First Inter-American Forum on Human Rights in December 2017, replicated through social networks.

The SRESCER agenda and work plan include actions around all the pillars of the IACHR's action -system of cases, monitoring, promotion, training, and technical assistance in public policies- in relation to the general nature of the ESCR, such as it is displayed on the attached strategic map. The agenda and the work plan were unanimously approved by the plenary of the Commission in February 2018 during the period of sessions in Colombia, as well as the image and the institutional logo of the SRESCER developed in the early management times.

On this basis, the Rapporteurship is working on issues related to the situation of poverty in the region, as well as in relation to all ESCER from a holistic perspective and informed by the approaches of: indivisibility, progressivity, gender, diversity and intersectionality, development and human rights, interdisiciplinarity, education in human rights and anti-corruption. Based on the intersectionality approach, special attention is given to the populations in situations of vulnerability or historical discrimination, such as women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, LGTBI people, migrants, children and adolescents, elderly people, persons with disabilities or defenders, and defenders of social and environmental rights, among others, in relation to the effects on the enjoyment of ESCER.

For SRESCER, the fight against poverty and inequality is the umbrella of the entire mandate, in line with the 2030 agenda of the United Nations. For this reason, the Rapporteur welcomes the inauguration of its functions with the approval and launching of the first thematic report on Poverty and Human Rights of the IACHR in its entire history. During the first year of the mandate, this report was also published and a special virtual microsite was created on it. Considering that in the last decade important advances have been made in the region in the ESCER area, which allowed large sectors of the population to escape poverty and extreme poverty, it is particularly worrisome that these achievements are currently in serious risk of retreat to the regional level. Therefore, SRESCER reminds that States have the obligation to take deliberate and concrete steps to advance in the eradication of poverty, addressing this problem from a human rights perspective and developing strategies to guarantee the population at least essential contents of social and environmental rights. Likewise, States must guarantee the participation of people in a situation of poverty from their own perspectives and experiences, in order to achieve their economic and social empowerment. Special efforts must be made to guarantee the ESCER of women and combat the feminization of poverty.

In fulfilling its mandate, SRESCER identifies major challenges and effects on the human rights of individuals, groups and groups living in poverty and extreme poverty, as well as serious situations of lack of access or water pollution in the hemisphere, lack of access to adequate food, child malnutrition and pregnant women, challenges in terms of access to housing, informal settlements, human rights violations caused by business activities, lack of access to education, health and employment or freedom of association in the region, as well as the particular obstacles for individuals, groups and communities living in situations of vulnerability or historical discrimination. It highlights how with the increase of human mobility in the region, ESCERs are especially threatened for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Likewise, the Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern about the threats, criminalization, reprisals, and violence against defenders of social and environmental rights in the Americas, as well as the disproportionate use of force and police repression in the context of demonstrations, protests and claims clearly related to the ESCER. The SRESCER has also expressed its deep concern with the expansion of anti-rights groups in the region, with especially negative effects in relation to sexual and reproductive rights, access to abortion in conditions compatible with international human rights standards, rights of LGBTTI people and the right to education with a gender perspective.

The Special Rapporteurship is particularly concerned regarding a trend in terms of legislative setbacks, social and fiscal policies, with the consequent impact on the access and enjoyment of ESCER by the most vulnerable sectors of the population. It also draws attention to the consequences of natural disasters and corruption in the enjoyment of ESCER. In this regard, the mandate made its contributions to resolution 1/18 of the IACHR, introducing the dimension of corruption that is particularly affected by ESCER and social policies. Hence, the Rapporteurship has expressly incorporated an anti-corruption approach into its strategic agenda.

The SRESCER has been especially active also in relation to the right to the environment. Thus, the SRESCER accompanied the opening events to the signing of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation, and Justice in environmental material, also known as the Escazú Agreement. This would be the first instrument at the regional level that obliges States to comply with the precepts of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on environment and development. In the same way, SRESCER is also an active part of the efforts regarding the implementation of Advisory Opinion No. 23 on the content of the Right to the Healthy Environment in light of the instruments of the inter-American human rights system. On the other hand, the SRESCER, within its strategic agenda, is seeking support to promote a regional project on the impact of climate change on human rights. The same in relation to the human right to water and sanitation, in relation to the right to food.

At the same time, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has maintained a fruitful agenda of meetings and contact with States, public institutions, academia, civil society, trade unions, and other entities of the OAS, intergovernmental organizations and donors. Likewise, it has actively participated in the generality of the internal processes underway at the IACHR. Since its creation, the Office of the Special Rapporteur also participated in Sessions 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170 and 171 of the IACHR, held in Mexico City, Montevideo, Washington DC., Bogotá, Santo Domingo, Boulder, Washington DC and, Sucre, respectively. On such occasions, the SRESCER has attended countless public hearings, as well as the working sessions of the IACHR, actively participating in discussions on issues of its competence. The Rapporteur has also been part of the delegation of the IACHR at the Summit of the Americas, held in Lima, as well as at the OAS General Assembly that took place in Washington. She has also made several presentations to the Permanent Council and to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the organization (CJPA).

On the other hand, the Rapporteurship is developing its monitoring work in close coordination with the Commissioners in their respective thematic or country rapporteurships, as well as with the teams of the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR, receiving and seeking information on the situation of the ESCER on the continent. In the development of these tasks, SRESCER has contributed to the preparation of the 2017 and 2018 annual reports of the IACHR and in the country report on Venezuela, as in the Preliminary Observations on Honduras and on Brazil. In particular, the Rapporteur's participation in on-site visits to Honduras, where she visited the Mosquitia region, stands out. Also in Brazil, where she led the delegation to the State of Roraima on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. In this way, with the contribution of its SRESCER, the reports of the IACHR have acquired an explicit and profound dimension of indivisibility and interdependence in addressing the human rights situation in the countries under analysis. Shortly after its creation, the SRESCER also published its first annual report, an annex to the IACHR itself, following the good practice of the Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression.

In addition to the monitoring functions, the participation in the work visit to Nicaragua in 2018 and the report issued on it in which serious human rights violations are documented in the context of the social protests started on April 18 f 2018 are also highlighted. In particular, it focused on guaranteeing the right to health and the effect on other social rights such as food, education, and labour, continuing these tasks up to the present in constant coordination with the MESENI of the IACHR.

In the development of its mandate, in addition to collaborating in the drafting of various Press Releases with the Executive Secretariat, the SRESCER issued 5 press releases on: February 1, 2018, due to scarcity and shortages of food and medicines In Venezuela; On March 23, 2018, as part of the international commemoration of water, SRESCER urged the states of the continent to prioritize actions aimed at realizing the rights to water and sanitation, in particular strengthening their recognition as human rights in their national regulatory frameworks. Similarly, on April 17, 2018, SRESCER welcomed decisions taken in the hemisphere to address climate change. On September 10, 2018, SRESCER expressed its concern regarding arbitrary dismissals and harassment against medical personnel, teachers and university students in Nicaragua. Finally, on October 1, SRESCER, together with several Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations system, expressed their concern regarding the health system in Venezuela.

For SRESCER, it is essential to receive information and be able to evaluate in situ the actions of the States, visits for which financing is also a priority and urgent. In this regard, on August 15 a note was sent requesting the acquiescence of the Venezuelan State to conduct an on-site work visit with the United Nations Rapporteur on the Right to Health, in order to verify the situation of the right to health and know the plans of actions that the State has against the context that has been going through, as well as the difficulties and obstacles encountered for the protection and guarantee of the right to health. Unfortunately, the visit did not have the consent of the State.

On the other hand, SRESCER welcomes the unanimous decision by the IACHR, for its designation as its representative in the Working Group on the Protocol of San Salvador in July 2018. Since the beginning of the mandate, the Rapporteur has sought to ensure the necessary coordination and synergy between the IACHR and SRESCER with this Working Group, a task that received special support from the Commissioners Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño and Flavia Piovesán in their capacity as titular and alternate members of the Group prior to the designation of the Rapporteur. Thus, it participated in the Group's Sessions Period in Quito and Washington. In addition, he contributed to the report presented by the Republic of Honduras and assumed the report of the work on the report presented by the State of Guatemala. Likewise, on November 26 and 27, the Special Rapporteur participated in her first working meeting as the official delegate of the IACHR. SRESCER is prepared to work in a particularly collaborative manner with the Working Group in order to achieve the ratification of the Protocol of San Salvador by the OAS member states that have not yet done so.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur and her team developed important promotional and academic activities in several countries of the region on the various issues related to the mandate. For example, those carried out with the University of Nuevo León and with the University of Monterrey (Mexico); the Workshop on challenges and good practices in National Human Rights Plans on business and human rights, experiences in Colombia, Chile and Mexico (Colombia); the seminar on the mandate of SRESCER held at the Max Plank Institute; or the ESCER Meeting of Experts co-organized with the Observatory of the Inter-American System of the UNAM. In the same way, the presentation on business and human rights was held at the request of the CAJP (OAS) and participation in the Forum "Restoring the Faith in Freedom" organized by the Carter Center (Atlanta, USA). Likewise, participation in numerous events and conferences is highlighted, such as the Third Regional Consultation for Latin America and the Caribbean on the Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Chile; the International Specialized Course on Human Rights organized by the Colombian Institute of Rights; or the III Inter-American Forum on Human Rights, among others. Likewise, the presentation of the report on Poverty, Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in the Americas is highlighted, both in Washington DC and in Mexico City. The Office of the Special Rapporteur has organized several training events for State officials, among those that stand out are those carried out with the Constitutional Court of Guatemala and the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City, with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECID).

In relation to the system of cases and petitions, during 2018, the SRESCER gave expert advice on 37 draft reports at the admissibility stage, 9 at the merits stage, 13 resolutions on request for precautionary measures and 1 hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Cuscul Pivaral case versus Guatemala). With the contributions of its SRESCER, the IACHR has begun to develop new standards in relation to social and environmental rights traditionally not addressed as such, but by way of connection with civil and political rights. For example, in terms of precautionary measures, based on the advice of SRESCER, in addition to life and personal integrity, the IACHR has begun to protect directly the right to health. In addition, the admissibility of article 26 has increased exponentially, as has its treatment in the merits phase in line with the most recent jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court. In this sense Case 12.428, Employees of the Fire Factory in Santo Antonio de Jesus and their relatives versus Brazil, now submitted to the Court, is paradigmatic.

On the other hand, the Rapporteurship prepared the concept note and the preliminary index of the report on inter-American standards on business and human rights, which was approved unanimously by the IACHR in February 2018. On the subject, an ex officio hearing was held in Colombia in the 167th session in Colombia called "Business and human rights: inputs for the construction of inter-American standards" promoted by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, which also participated in different related audiences during 2018. A questionnaire was also Member States of the OAS, civil society and public interested in delivering their contributions. SRESCER has focused its major efforts on the consultation and drafting process of what will be the first thematic report of the IACHR, and thus of the Inter-American System on the matter. It is also actively contributing to the preparation of reports on "ESCER of trans people" and on "ESCER and persons of African descent in the Americas". It has also begun to develop a compendium on labor rights and a request for an Advisory Opinion to the Inter-American Court on the scope of trade union rights with a gender perspective.

On the first anniversary of the Office of the Rapporteur, a report was presented on the actions carried out with emphasis on the perspectives and challenges of the mandate, in the framework of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, on September 27, 2018. Once completed the exhibition, the delegations of Argentina, El Salvador, Ecuador, the United States, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Bolivia and Mexico took the floor, which can be observed between 1:24:14 and 1:42:57 minutes of the following link.

In response to these comments, the Rapporteurship appreciates the collaboration and recognition of the OAS member states, reiterating its commitment to the promotion and protection of the ESCR in support of the fulfillment of the commitments assumed by the States in guaranteeing them. It also expresses its special recognition of the support received from observer States, encouraging them to continue and expand. Likewise, it expresses its appreciation for the support of the General Secretariat and other OAS forums with which it has been generating coordination on issues related to the mandate.

The Special Rapporteur expresses her profound gratitude to the IACHR for the trust and support received during 2018, which extends to the Executive Secretary and all the personnel under his charge, such as the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and his team. A special recognition is dedicated to the team of the Rapporteurship, composed of specialists, interns, associated personnel, scholars and volunteers. Equal to all the people and institutions that in a disinterested way have been contributing with the tasks of the mandate. Shortly after, its founding and with scarce material resources, every support received has been key to the progress of this statement.

In the interval between its first months of work and 2018, the Rapporteurship has focused especially on seeking strategic alliances and sources of financing in order to strengthen and give sustainability to its work. In accordance with the above, the Special Rapporteur has maintained an intense agenda of meetings and visits, both in America and in Europe, while she has made constant use of communication media and social networks to promote the mandate and its actions. The Rapporteur appreciates all the contributions made to the voluntary contributions fund of SRESCER by member states and observers of the OAS. Among the members, to date, contributions have been received from Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. On behalf of the Observers, special mention deserves the financial support received from Spain, through successive projects. France has also contributed to the voluntary fund and Switzerland has made contributions to some of the projects that SRESCER implements. In addition, the Rapporteurship has begun to develop valuable partnerships with public institutions, especially with the National Institutions of Human Rights, the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen and the Regional Program of support for the Ombudsman of Ibero-America of the University of Alcalá de Henares. Also with civil society, Universities and other international organizations. In this regard, the mandate has begun to negotiate and sign specific inter-institutional agreements on ESCR issues. Among them, we can highlight the ones signed with the National University of Córdoba (Argentina), the University of Monterrey (Mexico) and OXFAM International.

Finally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds that all these achievements have occurred despite the financial uncertainty that weighs on the mandate. Indeed, along with her many responsibilities, the Special Rapporteur has been developing a huge effort to find resources, which has included the holding of a donor's table with the support of the OAS Secretary General, a tour of Europe, as well as the formulation and presentation of projects to different donors. Recalling that SRESCER was established with limited resources limited to one year of operation, such as the fact that the Special Rapporteurships of the IACHR do not receive resources from the regular budget of the OAS, and that it is, therefore, vital for them to obtain the necessary resources to its proper functioning and fulfillment of objectives, the IACHR and its SRESCER reiterate the urgent call for financial support from the member states and observers, as well as from other donors committed to the topics of the mandate in order to ensure the consolidation and development of its fundamental task.

According to the President of the IACHR, Esmeralda Arozamena de Troitiño: "Shortly after its implementation, SRESCER has become a fundamental area of the IACHR, thanks to which we have strengthened our capacity to respond to the great challenges of social and environmental rights that affect our societies. I call on States and donors committed to the inter-American system to contribute immediately to their sustainability. "

For his part, the Executive Secretary, Paulo Abrão, said: "The work carried out by the Special Rapporteurship on ESCER has allowed the IACHR to advance as never before towards integral protection of human rights. In addition to enriching the thematic agenda of the Commission, the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur is encouraging the expansion of our social base. I make the call of the President of the IACHR in favor of its sustainability".

Finally, Special Rapporteur Soledad García Muñoz pointed out: "The SRESCER is born thanks to a historic decision of the IACHR, based on the cry of civil society in the continent, as well as the OAS States themselves in seeking to strengthen the system. Now is the time to put into practice this commitment and shared responsibility with the strengthening of the mandate”.

SRESCER is an Office of the IACHR, specially created to support the Commission in fulfilling its mandate to promote and protect economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in the Americas.

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 and to defend 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.

No. 48/19