Guide: IACHR Reform Vote at the OAS

By Rachel Glickhouse

AS/COA Online provides a guide to coverage of the reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

On March 22, the Organization of American States will hold a special General Assembly session to consider reforms to the inter-American human rights system. The process began in June 2011, when a working group started considering ways to strengthen the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). However, many observers say the reforms will, in fact, weaken the Commission, undermine its autonomy, and allow governments to limit freedom of speech.

One of the reforms would limit the IACHR’s ability to issue precautionary measures. These measures allow the OAS to call for immediate action in member countries in cases of human rights abuses. The changes would also restrict the Commission’s ability to address individual human rights complaints, as well as slowing the process to evaluate petitions. In addition, reform proposals would prevent the IACHR from publishing comprehensive reports on freedom of expression in the region.

Another element of the reform involves funding for the IACHR. Those in favor of reform say funding should only come from within the region. This however, could limit the Commission’s finances, since about a third of its budget comes from Europe. The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, which protects press freedoms in the Americas, could lose nearly its whole budget. In addition, Ecuador wants member states to finance the general OAS fund, rather than individual rapporteurships. The Andean country supports equal funding for all rapporteurships, though the Freedom of Expression group currently receives more funding than others.

AS/COA Online provides a guide to primary sources, Americas Quarterly and AS/COA coverage of the reforms, and additional resources.

Coverage from AS/COA and Our Policy Journal Americas Quarterly

  • See Americas Quarterly’s IACHR Reform In Depth portal with coverage of the process from the press. CHECK IN: Live blog posts from the March 22 vote will be available on Friday.  
  • Follow @AmerQuarterly for live tweeting of the March 22 vote.
  • Watch a video and read a summary from AS/COA’s February panel with journalists, human rights activists, and experts from throughout the Americas to discuss the reforms’ implications.