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Secretary General Calls for Dialogue to Strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights System

  November 15, 2012

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said today, speaking at the Strategic Summit for Pro Bono Work in the Americas, that the key to the strengthening of the Inter-American System of Human Rights (ISHR) lies in dialogue, which he called "indispensable."

The Secretary General began his words with the news that the Special Meeting of the General Assembly of the OAS had approved an increase in the budget for the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. "They were increased by 11 percent compared with the previous year, which does not cover all the needs of the organization, but does provide an important signal of the goodwill of the countries with respect to the strengthening" of the system.

The work of the ISHR is essential to the OAS, said the Secretary General. "This is not an issue whose validity or whose need is in question," he said. But, despite its importance, the system currently faces three major challenges. First is the question of membership, he said. "All countries in the OAS are members of the Commission, but not all countries are members of the Court, in the sense that not all have ratified its jurisdiction. What we want is a system that is complete," said Secretary Insulza.

The second challenge, said the leader of the hemispheric organization, is compliance: "what we want is that the decisions of the Commission and the Court are respected."

Finally, said the Secretary General, there is the challenge of providing the resources that the system requires. "The number of citizens of the Americas who turn to the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights is ever increasing," said Insulza, which increases the workload on the institutions and the number of pending cases.

To overcome these challenges, the Secretary General said "we need to dialogue with Member Countries. And that's what we’re doing." In the end, he emphasized "the Inter-American System of Human Rights is one of the main components of the OAS and its strengthening not only benefits us but it is a shared responsibility of all the stakeholders."

Meanwhile, Roberto Cuellar, Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute on Human Rights stressed that the forum comes at a time of democratic development in the region. "The great contribution that Pro Bono and the Vance Center can make to the Inter-American System," he said, "is first of all, in the internal systems of law." "To help reduce the burden on the Inter-American system," he added, "it is crucial to improve the national systems."

The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and the Pro Bono Foundation Chile organized the Forum, which is taking place November 15 and 16, 2012, in Washington, DC and brings together representatives from leading law firms in the region. The international meeting aims to create a Work Program 2012 - 2014: for International Pro Bono Network and advance strategies to consider joint participation of pro bono lawyers in strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-413/12