The General Assembly of Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) voted unanimously in support of the resolution to double the annual budget of the OAS Regular Fund reserved for the Inter-American human rights system, which includes the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Court.
As the Court and Commission noted in a recent statement, this resolution is the first step to rectifying the current situation in which both entities depend excessively upon voluntary financial donations and contributions (constituting half their budgets). By nature such donations are variable and unpredictable, which makes it difficult for these organizations to adequately and sustainably plan and carry out their functions and mandates.
The Commission suffered its worst financial crisis ever last year when it was faced with the possibility of having to dismiss 40% of its staff. The Commission, which at the time received just 6% of its budget from the OAS, was able to overcome the 2016 crisis thanks to voluntary contributions from private foundations, and Member and Non-member States, including institutions such as the European Union.
Angélica Castaneda, FIAN’s Latin America coordinator, notes that the passage of this resolution marks a historical moment as it "guarantees the people’s sovereignty over institutional human rights mechanisms”. Castaneda notes that this decision is a significant step towards ensuring the financial and political independence of the Inter-American system as it will no longer need financial contributions from private sector actors, like transnational corporations for example. “It has already been demonstrated that privately financing institutions responsible for governance and public policy can lead to powerful private sector actors exercising undue influence over public decisions, and furthermore public forums are by extension undermined and removed from the hands of citizens", concludes Castaneda.
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