Press Release

IACHR Announces Decision to Open Selection Process for the Executive Secretary Position and Thanks Secretary Paulo Abrão’s Administration

September 18, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has announced its decision to lunch a competitive process to select the person who will lead the IACHR Executive Secretariat following the decision that not to extend the contract of the current Executive Secretary, Paulo Abrão. The IACHR also wishes to underline the importance of its autonomy and independence, by virtue of which it has the power to select the person who will become the new Executive Secretary for four years and renew this mandate once, in accordance with its Statute and Rules of Procedure. The IACHR also wishes to acknowledge and express its deepest gratitude to Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão’s administration for its work from 2016 to 2020.

On August 30, 2020, the IACHR called for a respectful institutional dialogue between the two Principal Bodies of the Organization of American States (OAS) to resolve the differences of opinion between the IACHR and the OAS Secretary General regarding the renewal of the Executive Secretary’s mandate, based on three premises: (i) the defense of the IACHR’s autonomy in choosing and renewing the contract of its executive Secretary as per the terms set out in press release no. 2020/20; (ii) the protection of the rights of the IACHR’s workers; and (iii) due process within any sanctioning procedure.

In this regard, the IACHR wishes to state that it made every effort to achieve these ends and ensure these principles were respected by presenting a solid proposal that sought to renew the contract of the current Executive Secretary following a leave of absence as permitted by the Policy and Conflict Resolution System for Prevention and Elimination of All Forms of Workplace Harassment, in order to ensure that staff complaints can be processed appropriately.

As a consequence, the IACHR expressed its profound rejection of the decision of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, whose refusal to renew this contract breaks with a 20-year practice of respecting the IACHR’s decision to appoint its own Executive Secretary and thus makes it difficult to obtain truth, justice, and reparation for those whose labor rights have been affected. This decision on the part of the Secretary General ignores the due process that Mr. Paulo Abrão should be subject to, as article 13.5.3 of the aforementioned policy clearly states that “the fact that a Staff Member or a Non-staff Personnel is under investigation should not be used against someone when considering e.g. the renewal of a contract.”

Those who currently make up the IACHR are fully aware of the historical role that the organization has played in defending victims’ human rights for more than 61 years. They have therefore decided to act responsibly to preserve the IACHR’s institutional role by launching a competitive process for selecting a new Executive Secretary. Likewise, it wishes to announce that the commissioners will take those measures within their reach to improve the working environment within the Executive Secretariat and safeguard all people’s human rights. To this end, the IACHR wishes to point out the importance of ascertaining the results of the investigation to be carried out by the Inspector General.

The IACHR wishes to express its appreciation to Paulo Abrão, whose leadership has been fundamental to the process of institutional transformation that was entrusted to him at the time of his appointment. Following the participatory process that resulted in the Strategic Plan 2017–2021, the structure of the Executive Secretariat has been modernized and the IACHR has succeeded in strengthening access to an inter-American justice system that is more effective and accessible for victims of human rights violations in the Americas, providing timely, comprehensive monitoring, strengthening technical cooperation initiatives with states and civil society, and engaging in more structured monitoring of its recommendations.

During Mr. Abrão’s administration, the IACHR achieved unprecedented progress and results within the case, petition, and precautionary measure system, implemented timely responses to the main crises affecting the region, increased the organization’s budget and staff, created new forums for social participation and channels of dialogue with states, increased IACHR visits and raised the organization’s profile within the region, and developed the use of innovative working tools such as situation rooms, special follow-up teams and mechanisms, and international expert research groups. Other notable achievements include creating the Office of the Special Rapporteur for ESCERs, developing and launching the Inter-American System for Monitoring and Evaluating Human Rights, and establishing the situation room for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. During his time in office, Secretary Abrão actively pursued making substantive improvements to staff working conditions; implemented diversity policies and a gender approach; pioneered the use of new technologies; and worked to create and draft a financial sustainability plan. The entire strategy resulted in an institutional work culture based on results, accountability, and transparency, responding to the longstanding need to provide the Secretariat with a greater institutional framework. In addition to these results, the IACHR also released various performance and progress reports on implementing the Strategic Plan 2017–2021.

Finally, the IACHR announced that the system for presenting nominations for the process of selecting a new Executive Secretary as per its Rules of Procedure will be available on its website from September 25 onward. Whoever is selected for the position will be responsible for supporting the IACHR in fulfilling its mandate to observe, promote, and defend human rights in the Americas. Likewise, in accordance with Article 12.2. of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR wishes to inform the public that it has appointed the Assistant Executive Secretary for Monitoring, Technical Cooperation, and Promotion, María Claudia Pulido, to replace the Executive Secretary until the process of selecting and appointing the new Executive Secretary is complete.

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. 224/20