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PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON INTER-AMERICAN SUMMITS MANAGEMENT

OEA/Ser.G    CE/GCI-44/96
7 February 1996
Original: English

PLAN OF ACTION OF THE SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLEMENTATION PROPOSAL
(Proposal presented by Brazil and Canada)

 

INTRODUCTION

The Plan of Action approved by the Americas Summit (Miami, December 1994) emphasized that "the strengthening, effective exercise and consolidation of democracy constitute the main political priority in the Americas". It points out further that "the development of concepts and norms related to human rights have registered great progress in the Hemisphere, but their implementation still reveals serious shortcomings." In its meeting of last September, the SIRG accepted the offer of Brazil to coordinate the theme "Democracy and Human Rights." It accepted as well the willingness of Canada and the OAS to assist in the coordination effort. This proposal presented to the participating countries in the Summit of the Americas by Brazil and Canada has as its objective to build a platform which enables the transposition on the practical plane of the undertakings assumed in the Plan of Action by the governments of the Hemisphere in the Miami Summit, related to the theme "Democracy and Human Rights". The present document, product of consultations between the governments of Brazil and Canada, comprises four parts: the first dealing with the general lines of implementation; the second describing thematic lines in the areas of Democracy and Human Rights conceived in accordance with the Plan of Action; the third listing a number of concrete follow-up actions; and the last consisting of a series of annexes enumerating some specific actions and instruments to implement this proposal.

BASES FOR IMPLEMENTATION

The present document considers four essential areas in which to concentrate the actions suggested, with a view to providing concrete measures for the strengthening of democracy and the promotion and protection of human rights, as follows:

a) develop a culture of democracy, an integral part of which is the full observance of human rights;

b) encourage greater responsibility, transparency and observance of the law in the actions and/or decisions of the agents of the State;

c) strengthen, in the medium and long term, the democratic electoral processes;

d) facilitate the establishment of priorities on the part of governments for the promotion of human rights.

The proposal presented for the appraisal of the governments has as a prerequisite a process of flexible implementation based upon the voluntary participation of governments and the involvement of civil society. The programmes and projects should be in consonance with the needs and realities of the countries involved. Thus the presentation of finished programmes and/or projects which might be in dissonance with the objectives, priorities, and plans of each country has been avoided. In the multilateral sphere, the programmes and/or projects should be complementary and should avoid duplication with other bilateral and multilateral efforts underway in the Hemisphere.

Within the shortest possible time, special efforts should be made to achieve significant results in the following areas:

1) Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
2) Electoral Processes
3) Justice and Related Systems
4) Creating the Conditions for a More Responsive and Professional Public Sector

Hemispheric regional, sub-regional and national programmes may serve as a basis for the implementation of actions included in the proposal, which follows. Furthermore, hemispheric, regional, sub-regional and national institutions, such as the OAS, IDB, ECLAC and the American Institute for Human Rights should be relied upon as much has possible, whenever appropriate.

Actions described below may be implemented separately or in conjunction with others by means of mechanisms, which are most appropriate to the governments. These measures should include the holding of seminars, the adoption of administrative and/or legislative measures of a domestic scope, the organization of technical cooperation on programmes and personnel training, among others.

With a view to putting these measures into effect, it will be necessary to mobilize funding to provide support for the effective actions of the governments. In accordance with the Miami Plan of Action, the OAS and IDB are to be encouraged to establish and strengthen programmes of support for national projects which aim at strengthening democracy and promoting human rights on the American continent. Governments should examine the possibility of providing resources from international public and private financing and development institutions associated with development aid projects, with a view to the establishment of a hemisphere-wide system for publicizing the principles of protection and citizenship.

Appendix I to this document shows a number of specific results which Governments in the Hemisphere may choose to achieve within the four specific areas of concentration, depending on the particular circumstances of each country.

I. DEMOCRACY

The Miami Plan of Action establishes democracy as being the principal political priority in the Americas and recognizes the OAS as being the main hemispheric agency for the defense of democratic values and institutions. In the Plan of Action, the governments committed themselves to the adoption of internal measures for the strengthening of the dialogue between social groups and for the ratification of the protocols for the reform of the Charter of the OAS. They further agreed to support initiatives of the OAS for the promotion of democracy.

1. MECHANISMS FOR STRENGTHENING DEMOCRATIC ELECTORAL SYSTEMS IN THE MEDIUM AND LONG TERM

Actions could be carried out to increase the credibility of democratic institutions, strengthen party pluralism and participation in electoral processes in the following areas:

-- Strengthening of the capacity of action of the institutions most directly involved in the electoral process, such as the electoral courts, so as to improve the transparency and credibility of elections;

-- Improvement of the documentation systems, the voter registration records and mechanisms for combating fraud and regulating campaign funding;

-- Improvement of the efficacy of the representative institutions, especially those of the Legislative Branch, and also of other institutions which carry out functions typical of the State.

2. COOPERATION AND EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCES

Governments should promote the strengthening of cooperation between them with a view to perfecting their electoral systems and the functioning of democratic institutions. To this end, they should seek to implement initiatives aimed at:

-- Establishing modalities for the transfer of technologies relating to electoral processes, the rendering of assistance to national entities in charge of the organization of elections, upon request of interested States;

-- Establishing training programmes for public employees involved in the preparation and supervision of elections;

-- Support for projects for the strengthening of institutions and the improvement of the efficiency of public administration;

-- Strengthening mechanisms for the protection of democratic regimes, in order to prevent their possible disruption;

-- Supporting measures to back democratic governments that have been restored.

II. PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Although striking progress has been made in the development in human rights concepts and standards throughout the hemisphere, implementation has been characterized by precariousness, despite the advances made in the application standards of protection and promotion of human rights by the Inter-American System. Besides the urgent need for improved access to justice and the strengthening of the judiciary, other reforms aimed at other State institutions which could contribute to improving the status of human rights, ought to be defined and proposed.

A. AT THE LEVEL OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

1. Actions on the part of the international system for the protection of human rights

Government should adopt measures with a view to:

-- Promoting the accession to international human rights instruments to which the countries are not as yet party, such as the ones suggested in Appendix 3.

2. Actions in the Areas of International Exchanges and Cooperation

With the aim of reinforcing the performance of countries of the Hemisphere in the promotion and protection of human rights, Governments, with the assistance of multilateral agencies, which have mandates in this area and non-governmental organizations, shall promote initiatives to stimulate exchanges and international cooperation. Such initiatives, in sectors specified below, are to be structured taking into account the particular needs of the participating countries. In keeping with their domestic laws, where they deem it advisable the governments shall seek to invite nongovernmental organizations to participate in that process (at the suggestion of Mexico, the sentence should clearly state that NGOs would participate when deemed advisable)., With respect to inter-American financial institutions, consideration should be given to expanding sources of cooperation, and the means should be identified for governments to make rational use of new resources in the promotion and protection of human rights. Such initiatives, in the sectors specified below, will be structured taking into account the needs of participating countries.

2.1. Exchanges of Experiences

-- Promote the exchange of experiences on the issue of the protection and promotion of human rights, including those relative to difficulties encountered;

-- Plan actions, which permit greater disclosure of programmes for witness protection and for those responsible for the ministration of justice in the countries of the Hemisphere;

-- Cooperate towards the development of training for police and security forces with a view to creating more specialized police teams and reducing the potential for human rights violations;

-- Disseminate more widely the theme of human and humanitarian rights in the training of military and police forces.

B. AT THE INTERNAL LEVEL

Priority should be placed upon strategies aimed at reducing violence in social relations and the abuse of power on the part of agents of the State, so as to promote a more efficient utilization of resources and an improvement in the provision of public security services. The combating of impunity, the elimination of torture and the protection of witnesses are among the goals to be pursued through immediate actions.

3. Promotion of Human Rights

With the objective of implementing the strategies drawn up, governments at the national and the local level shall promote:

-- Promotion of human rights through educational prograrmmes which provide the population with more information as to rights and duties;

-- Building permanent awareness of the problem of disregard for and violation of human rights, particularly with respect to categories of people whose exposure to high-risk situations is greater, such as in the case of children and adolescents, migrant workers, and persons with physical disabilities.

4. Improvement of State Institutions

The Miami Programme of Action states that "although responsibility for the application of legal rights and obligations lies ultimately with the courts, it is also necessary to reform other institutions with a view to contributing to the further development of a climate of respect for human rights. There must also be universal access to justice and effective means to enforce basic rights. A democracy is judged by the rights enjoyed by its least influential members."

Governments will cooperate with other countries in the Hemisphere to support measures that those countries wish to carry out to bring their domestic laws into line with international human rights treaties they have ratified.

Governments, both at the national and local levels, shall promote initiatives with a view to improving the Judicial Branch, the legislation of penal institutions, and the police, focussing especially upon:

4.1. The Judiciary

-- Crimes against human rights should be codified as agreed under international conventions, and be judged by civil courts;

-- Adoption of simplified procedures, rationalizing judicial services and computerizing the courts, with a view to improving the provision of services and expanding the population's access to justice;

-- Stimulate the creation of a model for statistical monitoring of judicial processes relating to human rights violations;

-- Support the adoption of mechanisms aimed at increasing the participation of society in actions of the Judiciary;

-- Foster reforms in the procedural legislation with a view to making it more flexible, swift and cheap, so as to reduce drastically the differentiated access to justice based upon economic and social differences.

4.2. Public Defenders

Foment the creation of legal aid services which are fully national in scope and which apply to all levels of jurisdiction;

-- Promote the adoption of measures for the solution and conciliation of conflicts.

4.3. Prisons

-- Propose changes in penal legislation with a view to the introduction of alternative penalties for certain crimes, especially non-violent offenses;

-- Correct through emergency programmes, including educational initiatives, the inadequate conditions within the prisons, with emphasis upon the recuperation of prisoners;

-- Speed up judicial procedures so as to reduce the number of prisoners awaiting sentencing;

-- Computerize data referring to criminal sentencing so as to avoid overextension of prison terms.

4.4. Police

-- Adopt pedagogical programmes directed at agents of the State and in particular courses on human rights in police academies;

-- Improve the criteria of selection, recruitment and training of police officers, so as to include respect for human rights;

-- Examine and reform the curriculums for training and re-training of police officers with a view to including the correct treatment of suspects and detainees, and also deepening the police officers' awareness of the fact that they are members of a public service, at the service of the community, and that they should never under any circumstances neglect, abuse of stray from this function;

-- Develop programmes and projects for the improvement of the technical facilities of the police.

5. Strengthening of the Rights of Specific Groups

5.1. Women

In accordance with the Programme of Action of Miami, governments "shall promote policies which ensure to women the full enjoyment of their civil rights in conditions of equality within the scope of the family and of society, ensuring the elimination of constraints which impede the full participation of women as voters, candidates to and holders of public office".

Foster institutions specialized in the defense of the integrity of women and in combating domestic violence, as is the case of specialized women's police precincts;

-- Promote policies, which ensure women the full enjoyment of their civil rights;

-- Elimination of constraints of any nature which impede the full participation of women as voters, candidates, or holders of public office, whether by election or appointment;

-- Adopt mechanisms for the monitoring of the situation of women, both in law and in fact, with a view to the possibility of State and societal intervention in order to ensure the effectiveness of established rights in pursuance to national and international standards;

-- Foster the elimination of prejudices, labels and stereotypes which are derogatory to women;

Define an agenda, with a clear commitment to the elimination of internal obstacles which inhibit the full participation of women in sustainable development and in public life;

-- Implement the Programme of Action of Cairo, adopted at the World Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994, and the platform of Action of Beijing, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

5.2. Minority Groups and the Indigenous Community

The following actions on the part of Governments, which reflect the commitments assumed in Miami, are proposed:

-- Adopt the necessary legal and administrative measures to ensure full protection and non-discrimination to theses groups;
-- Facilitate their civic participation;
-- Collaborate in the participation of a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people;
-- Strengthen cooperation with existing institutions in the Hemisphere, such as the Inter-American Indian Institute;
-- Promote the status of Indian languages in order to preserve the identity of Indian communities.

5.3. The Disabled

Based upon the agreement reflected in the Programme of Action of Miami, governments both at the national and local levels, shall make efforts to:

-- Strengthen existing legislation and adopt administrative measures to ensure benefits and services for these groups, so that they may enjoy rights and freedoms on an equal footing with other citizens.

5.4. Migrant Workers and Foreign Communities

With a view to ensuring "protection of the human rights of all migrant workers and their families," in pursuance to the Plan of Action of Miami, governments should take action to:

-- Promote protection of the rights of migrant workers and foreign communities;
-- Ensure the human rights of these groups and their families;
-- Adopt new measures to impede violence against migrant workers, refugees and the homeless;
-- Promote participation by civil society in the protection of the rights of migrant workers and foreign communities;
-- Promote the exchange of experiences and information on the human rights of migrant workers and their families;
-- Promote the adhesion of countries of the continent to the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.

C. REVITALIZING CIVIL SOCIETY

The Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference of Human Rights, Vienna, 1993, clearly defined the decisive role which civil society organizations have in the fulfillment of human rights.

-- Governments must facilitate the operations of, and review legislation which potentially restricts the activities of NGO's and lift legal impediments which make it difficult for these institutions to mobilize resources, including raising funds. NGO's should, for their part, act in a transparent way which emphasizes, inter alia, effective management and the allocation of resources.

-- Governments must encourage community participation in public administration and control, with a view to strengthening civil society.

-- Stimulate the creation of a channel of direct and adequate access between the Government and society, through ombudsmen.

D. STRATEGIES FOR THE FORMULATION OF NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS PLANS

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action clearly underscore the role of the State and of national governments in the promotion of human rights through a plan of action. Paragraph 71 of the Program of Action recommends "that each State consider the convenience of drawing up a national plan of action identifying measures with which the State in question might promote and protect human rights.

This plan aims to be a practical measure by means of which various states of the Hemisphere could improve their current human rights standards, taking into account their particular circumstances as a starting point, but with the aim of fulfilling the principles defined in Vienna and at the Miami conference, by means of Government Policies, in consultation with civil society. The structure of the National Plans to allow for a continental dialogue and the exchange of experiences, should be common to all countries.

A proposal for the possible structure of these plans is presented as Appendix 2.

III. SUGGESTIONS FOR CONCRETE FOLLOW-UP ACTIONS

-- Creation of an electronic data bank of national, regional and hemispheric institutions, public and private, involved in the promotion of human rights and the strengthening of democracy, of good technical capacity and high reputation, organized by area of expertise, so an inventory of technical capacity present in the Hemisphere can be created. Data bank could be centralized within the OAS.

-- Creation of an electronic data bank of existing hemispheric, regional, sub-regional and national programs/projects in areas identified by the implementation document. Data bank could be centralized within the OAS.

-- Creation of an electronic data bank of OAS and UN international human rights instruments (i.e. of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the Inter-American Court, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee against Torture, etc.), resolutions and other documents (reports of special rapporteurs, etc.). Data bank could be centralized within the OAS.

-- Convening of workshops and conferences of experts to come up with recommendations on programs and projects within the result areas which could be offered to governments.


Appendix I

Specific Results

The outcomes described below should be used as guidelines for Governments willing to participate in this Initiative, rather than as binding commitments. Each Government may choose to concentrate on achieving some, or all of these results, depending on its particular circumstances.

Amongst the instruments used for that purpose, in addition the development and implementation of human rights plans (see Appendix 2), the following may also be used:

-- Exchange of expertise and experience among all countries in the Hemisphere

-- Reliance upon, and strengthening, through the enhancement of a service-oriented culture, of existing hemispheric, regional, sub-regional and national institutions involved in these areas (including the OAS, the IDB, ECLAC and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights)

-- Development and support of inter-regional linkages and networks

-- Building upon existing hemispheric, regional, sub-regional and national programs in these areas, and when necessary, creating new programs

-- Increased horizontal cooperation between sectors and among institutions at all levels within each participating country

-- More effective use of external resources

-- Enhanced consultation and cooperation among governments of the hemisphere in world or extra-hemispheric fora on issues related to these areas

-- Utilization of other pertinent mechanisms suggested in the Vienna Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna on June 1993

Area of Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

1. Better co-ordination and rationalization of human rights standard-setting activities, monitoring work and other actions within the OAS, and as well, as between relevant OAS and United Nations bodies (e.g., the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the Inter-American Court, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Commission on Human Rights, etc.).

2. Achievement of tangible and significant advances at the national level in the promotion and
protection of the rights of the following groups:

a. Women
b. Indigenous peoples
c. People with disabilities
d. Migrant workers and foreign communities
e. Children
f. Disadvantaged groups

3. Independent and effective national Human Rights Commissions, ombudsmen offices and police complaint boards established.

4. Police, military and other law enforcement agents trained in Human Rights and Humanitarian law principles and practice.

5. Elimination of abuse of power and excessive force by State Agents.

6. Elimination of torture.

7. Effective system for protection of witnesses and officers of the court established.

8. National school curricula at all levels include Human Rights and principles of democracy, including civil rights and duties.

9. (Existence of) Support for effective and transparent non-profit nongovernmental organizations active in this area.

Area of Electoral Processes

1. Independent and impartial election bodies

2. Trained election officials

3. Election tribunals in place

4. Elections monitoring procedures developed and used

5. Effective voter registration systems

6. Free and fair elections carried periodically

7. Increased voter participation, including that of women and minority groups

8. Effective and credible elected bodies, particularly those in the Legislative Branch

9. Strong, credible and sustainable political parties across the political spectrum, active in the periods between electoral exercises

10. Study of campaign finance mechanisms to foster more transparent and rigorous electoral processes

Area of Justice and Related Systems

1. Upgraded legal framework, where required (including gender equality; rights of minority and other disadvantaged groups; land and property rights; racial discrimination; family law; labor rights and relations; criminal law; procedural law; legislation enumerating duties of state agents and rights of the citizens, instituting a complaint process and providing for investigation of complaints by an independent body).

2. Bringing judges and lawyers up to date on new laws and the application of international human rights instruments.

3. Qualified law practitioners and paralegal workers.

4. Enhanced administrative capacity of the court system.

5. Alternative methods of conflict resolution implemented.

6. Crimes against human rights codified as agreed under international conventions and judged by civil courts.

7. Legal aid systems of national scope, with coverage at all court levels established.

8. Court procedures simplified and services computerized.

9. Upgraded physical and technological infrastructure for judicial, law enforcement and penal institutions.

10. Alternative sentencing approaches adopted.

11. Data on sentencing and execution of sentences electronically stored, analyzed and disseminated.

12. Higher recruitment, training and promotion standards for law-enforcement agents implemented.

13. Greater participation by civil society in monitoring the performance of the justice and related systems achieved.

14. Increased penalties for crimes committed against migrant workers and their families.

Area of creation of conditions for a more responsive and professional public sector

1. Legislative and regulatory environment conducive to a sustainable and professional civil service established throughout the public sector.

2. Appropriate mechanisms to generate -sufficient public revenue to finance an efficient public bureaucracy established.

3. Civilian vocation becomes central characteristic of law-enforcement institutions.

4. Civil society in general, and media in particular, play more active and constructive role in monitoring the performance of the public sector.


Appendix II

Suggested Model Human Rights Plan

First Part

Description of the status of ratification of international human rights instruments Description of reservations to ratified human rights instruments expected to be withdrawn Reaffirmation of undertaking to submit reports to international bodies for the protection of human rights

Second Part

Listing of objectives which the country intends to achieve in order to implement the principles contained in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, without overlooking its interdependence with the principles contained in the Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Third Part

Listing of proposed or adopted legislation and administrative measures to further respect for human rights such as protection for the rights of women, children, minority groups, migrant workers and their families, the handicapped, the aged, the mentally ill, respect for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, of rural populations, and all those items already defined in the human rights area by the Americas Summit.

Fourth Part

Examination of proposed steps which each government intends to take in order to achieve a series of immediate priorities, defined in accordance with the characteristics of each country. This determination would imply the definition of government policies to be implemented in the short, medium and long terms.


Appendix III

International Human Rights Instruments Suggested for Ratification
(to be revised)

-- Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, signed in Geneva on 28 July, 1951;

-- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, opened for signature in New York on 7 March, 1966;

-- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16 December 1966;

-- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 16 December 1966;

-- American Convention on Human Rights, concluded in San Jose on 22 November 1969;

-- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18 December 1979;

-- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1984;

-- Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, concluded in Cartagena de Indias on 9 December 1985;

-- Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989.


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