Press Release

Consultation questionnaire on consolidating and expanding civil society participation in IACHR activities

November 4. 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) believes that civil society participation has historically been essential for the IACHR to be able to fulfil its mandate to promote and protect human rights in the Americas. The process of drafting the IACHR’s Strategic Plan 2017–2021, based on a participatory methodology that included several stages of public consultations, identified strengthening civil society participation as one of the Commission’s priorities over this period (Program 12). Based on its own goals, and in the context of implementing its Strategic Plan, the IACHR has therefore expanded and deepened civil society participation to fulfil its mandate.

Over the course of 2019, nearly 330 civil society organizations have taken part in public hearings held during IACHR Periods of Sessions . Open meetings with civil society have also been held during Periods of Sessions, where organizations have contributed important information about the outlook of human rights in countries around the Americas. A total of 143 further working meetings have been held between States and civil society organizations to advance the petition and case system, addressing issues concerning precautionary measures, friendly settlements, cases, and the need to monitor recommendations. More than 60 bilateral meetings have also been held with civil society to address human rights issues of interest to those organizations. During 2019, Commissioners have also taken part in events hosted by civil society on the sidelines of Periods of Sessions.

The IACHR also organized meetings with civil society during the country visits it has conducted in 2019, to countries including Argentina, Barbados, Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay. The IACHR is currently planning an in loco visit to El Salvador for December. Civil society support is an essential aspect of preparations for these visits, to accurately assess the situation of human rights in countries around the Americas.

The IACHR also met with civil society organizations during the 49th General Assembly of the OAS—held in Medellín, Colombia—and in various activities in the context of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

During 2019, the IACHR has also held many virtual meetings with civil society in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, concerning the work of its different mechanisms.

In the context of its actions before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the IACHR has continued to deepen its support for victims and their representatives. It has also been in touch with organizations, academics, and experts on various issues, in order the ensure that these stakeholders can provide assistance on cases that are submitted to the Court, particularly those involving new developments in jurisprudence.

Concerning precautionary measures, the IACHR has approached civil society to gather relevant information to identify risks and to make this mechanism—whose implementation is coordinated with beneficiaries—more effective. The Commission has also kept up talks with civil society organizations on measures taken to streamline decision-making and procedures to request precautionary measures.

In 2019, the IACHR called on civil society organizations to take part in the second round of in-person public consultations organized by the Unit on Memory, Truth and Justice, in the context of the permanent procedure for participatory development of this Unit’s efforts.

Regarding thematic reports, the IACHR has continued to prioritize and fulfil its commitment to public consultations to gather inputs from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations, whose contributions are essential for these reports. During 2019, the IACHR prepared questionnaires to consult civil society ahead of the following reports: Corruption and Human Rights in the Americas, Situation of Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of Persons of African Descent in the Americas, Impact of Private Security on Human Rights, Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of Migrants, Refugees and Other Persons in the Context of Mixed Migration Movements, and National Systems of Protection of Human Rights of Older Persons in the Americas.

Concerning its 2019 Annual Report, the IACHR once again invited civil society organizations and other interested stakeholders from the 35 Member States of the OAS to submit information about the situation of human rights in the region, as a contribution to work on Chapters IV A, IV B, and V.

To monitor its recommendations, the IACHR has conducted promotional activities and talks with academics and civil society organizations, as well as training sessions targeting State officials, ombudspersons, and members of civil society organizations from around the Americas. At those events, the IACHR has received valuable feedback to improve monitoring mechanisms and develop new projects.

Regarding special monitoring mechanisms, the IACHR has continued to promote constant dialogue with civil society organizations and with victims of human rights violations and their families. The IACHR highlights its constant presence in Mexico and its periodic meetings with the families of missing students in the context of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Events in Ayotzinapa (MESA, by its Spanish acronym). The Commission further highlights the consultation questionnaire, video conferences, and meetings held with civil society in the context of the Workshops on the Implementation of Public Policies Regarding Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, a strategy that was implemented in response to civil society demands. Concerning the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, by its Spanish acronym), the IACHR highlights the collaboration and the constant exchange of information with civil society organizations, as well as the strategy of providing technical assistance and supporting capacity building among Nicaraguan civil society organizations, through targeted training session held in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Miami, and Washington D.C. Finally, the recently launched Special Monitoring Mechanism for Venezuela (MESEVE, by its Spanish acronym) seeks to coordinate work with various key stakeholders, including civil society organizations.

During 2019, the IACHR has continued to work on building civil society capacity through promotional activities and training sessions in several countries around the region, in the context of the Strategic Plan’s Program 9. The Commission highlights the participation of 100 people representing States and civil society organizations in Member States of the OAS in a new International Course on Public Human Rights Policy held jointly by the IACHR and MERCOSUR’s Institute of Public Human Rights Policy (IPPDH, by its Spanish acronym). A total of 60 human rights defenders from the Americas also took part in July 2019 in a Course on the Strategic Use of the Inter-American System, while another similar course is scheduled for December 2019. Over the course of 2019, many representatives of civil society around the region have taken part in training sessions developed by the IACHR.

“Civil society participation is crucial for the work of the IACHR,” said the IACHR’s President, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. “It not only keeps the Commission up-to-date on progress made and on pending challenges concerning human rights in the region, but also promotes and supports new initiatives and lines of action to ensure compliance with the Commission’s mandate,” she stressed.

“The results that have been achieved reaffirm the IACHR’s commitment to participatory management and open dialogue, in keeping with its Strategic Plan and especially with its goals of improving capacity building and increasing civil society participation,” said IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão.

The IACHR invites all interested organizations to complete the questionnaire that is available here, to further deepen civil society participation in its different activities and to suggest new mechanisms and channels to expand participation. The deadline to submit the questionnaire is november 30, 2019.

“Any contributions received through this questionnaire will be vital to consolidate a public policy document concerning the participation of civil society in IACHR activities, in compliance with Program 12 of the Strategic Plan 2017–2021. Civil society feedback will be a crucial input to develop dissemination and training materials, with a view to boosting the effectiveness of the Inter-American Human Rights System, as a pillar and a common commitment across the Americas,” Abrão said.

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. 281/19