New Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Taking into account the interdependent and indivisible nature of human rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided to initiate a process to create an Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR).

Through this decision the Commission seeks to strengthen and expand its work of defending and protecting the economic, social, and cultural rights of the people of the Americas. The process begun April 3 with the establishment of a special fund to raise the financial resources needed to create the Office and invitation to the OAS Member States to contribute to this fund, which will also help finance the activities of the existing ESCR Unit. ‘This decision is historic’, said the IACHR Chair, Commissioner Tracy Robinson. ‘This is the first time since the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was established in 1998 that the Commission is making a decision to replicate this experience. This reflects the fundamental importance the Inter-American Commission places on the protection and promotion of economic, social, and cultural rights in the region. A Special Rapporteurship implies that there will be a full-time Rapporteur, which will make it possible to delve deeper into the cross-cutting work the Commission does in this area.’ Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi, who will coordinate this process, agreed with the historic nature of the decision and said the hope is that the new Office of the Special Rapporteur will be able to be in operation toward the end of 2015. Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR) Economic, social, and cultural rights are contemplated in the OAS Charter, which establishes significant binding goals for the States with regard to economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly with the amendments put forward through the Protocol of Buenos Aires. Along the same lines, the American Declaration recognizes a range of economic, social, and cultural rights. For its part, the American Convention on Human Rights states that the ideal of free persons "enjoying freedom from fear and want can be achieved only if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his or her economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as his or her civil and political rights.” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has devoted attention to the respect for and guarantee of economic, social, and cultural rights in the region through its various mechanisms. In 2012, the Commission created an ESCR Unit, which was initially under the responsibility of Commissioner Rose-Marie Antoine and since January of this year has been overseen by Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi. The Commission has also carried out a consultation process on ESCR in Argentina and is planning similar consultations for Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and one country in the Caribbean. The IACHR has also published a number of thematic reports on economic, social, and cultural rights, including: “Access to Justice as a Guarantee of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights”; “Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective”; “The Work, Education and Resources of Women: The Road to Equality in Guaranteeing Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”; “Access to Maternal Health Services from a Human Rights Perspective”; “Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Rights over their Ancestral Lands and Natural Resources”; and the recently published report on “The Right of Boys and Girls to a Family,” among others. In recent years, the Commission has held many thematic hearings that address economic, social, and cultural rights. For example, during the 150th session currently underway, information was received on the labor conditions of workers in the meatpacking and poultry industry in the United States; the alleged practice of forced evictions that affect campesinos in Paraguay; barriers in access to maternal health services in Mexico; the lack of access to adequate food, housing, and medicine for migrant Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic; and obstacles to holding strikes or otherwise demanding labor rights in Venezuela.

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