In the Commission’s most recent annual reports, because of blatant violations of the rights to life, personal security, liberty and due process of law, and the phenomenon of “missing persons,” the Commission thought it necessary to focus its concern on the tremendous wave of murders, tortures and arbitrary detentions in the hemisphere.


          When examining the situation of human rights in the various countries, the Commission has had to establish the organic relationship between the violations of the rights to physical safety on the one hand, and neglect of economic and social rights and suppression of political participation, on the other. That relationship, as has been shown, is in large measure one of cause and effect. In other words, neglect of economic and social rights, especially when political participation has been suppressed, produces the kind of social polarization that then leads to acts of terrorism by and against the government.


          The right to political participation leaves room for a wide variety of forms of government; there are many constitutional alternatives as regards the degree of centralization of the powers of the state or the election and attributes of the organs responsible for the exercise of those powers. However, a democratic framework is an essential element for establishment of a political society where human values can be fully realized.


          The right to political participation makes possible the right to organize parties and political associations, which through open discussion and ideological struggle, can improve the social level and economic circumstances of the masses and prevent a monopoly on power by any one group or individual. At the same time it can be said that democracy is a unifying link among the nations of this hemisphere.


          Neglect of the economic and social rights is another cause, though more diffuse and problematic, of the violence and social conflicts. The general and apparently well-founded belief is that in some countries, the extreme poverty of the masses—the result in part of a less equitable distribution of the resources of production—has been the fundamental cause of the terror that afflicted and continues to afflict those countries. However, in general, the Commission has been extremely cautious in this sensitive area, because it recognized the difficulty of establishing criteria that would enable it to measure the states’ fulfillment of their obligations. It has also seen the very difficult options that the governments face when allocating resources between consumption and investment, and, hence, between current and future generations. Economic policy and national defense policy are closely related to national sovereignty. However, in light of the competence it has been given, the Commission wishes to make the following observations with respect to economic, social and cultural rights.


          The essence of the legal obligation incurred by any government in this area is to strive to attain the economic and social aspirations of its people, by following an order that assigns priority to the basic needs of health, nutrition and education. The priority of the “rights of survival” and “basic needs” is a natural consequence of the right to personal security.


          According to development experts, life expectancy, infant mortality and illiteracy are the best indicators to measure the well-being of the population of a country, and to evaluate the progress being made towards higher levels of economic and social well-being for the general populace.


          In view of the unequal distribution of the wealth in many countries, an increase in national revenues does not necessarily nor by correlation mean an improvement in those indices. The premise that a better national income helps to reduce poverty at the lowest levels of the social scale in a country is only true in those cases in which priority attention has been devoted to the disadvantaged majorities.


          Efforts to eliminate extreme poverty have been made under radically different political, economic and cultural systems. In turn those efforts have produced spectacular results as has been shown in those countries that have expanded public health care services at the lowest level of society, that have tackled the problem of mass illiteracy systematically, that have undertaken comprehensive agrarian reform programs or that have extended the benefits of social security to all sectors of the population.


          To date, there is no political or economic system or individual development model that has demonstrated a clearly superior capability to promote economic and social rights; but whatever the system or model may be, it must assign priority to attaining those fundamental rights that make it possible to eliminate extreme poverty.


          The Organization of American States and, in particular, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as the organ specifically charged with promoting and defending human rights, is duty-bound to take a more active role in protecting economic, social and cultural rights, just as it is with respect to civil and political rights.


          In this delicate and difficult question of the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, the Commission cannot help but recognize that just as each government has an obligation to work to increase the national wealth and ensure its equitable distribution so that each and every one of the inhabitants of the respective country may benefit thereby, the more developed countries have an obligation vis-à-vis the less developed countries. Without solid support from the wealthy countries within the area, development of the poorer countries is almost impossible.


          In view of the foregoing considerations, the Commission:


          1.          Repeats the recommendations made in earlier reports, particularly as to the need to avoid, punish and, where appropriate, put an immediate end to serious violations of basic human rights—particularly the right to life, personal security and liberty—violations that have led, in alarming proportions, to disappearances, the systematic use of torture and arbitrary detention or exile without due process.


          2.          Recommends that the member states that have not yet done so, reinstitute or perfect the democratic system of government so that the exercise of power is based on the legitimate and free expression of the will of the people.


          3.          Is confident that the Special General Assembly convoked to study the problem of inter-American cooperation for development will establish a system of standards that will aid each country in its efforts to make economic, social and cultural rights within that sovereignty effective.


          4.          Recommends to the member states that they adopt the necessary measures to hasten the elimination of extreme poverty within their respective countries.


          5.          Recommends that the topic of the measures to eliminate extreme poverty and the topic of measures to gradually implement economic, social and cultural rights be included on the agenda of the next regular session of the General Assembly.


          6.          Urges the member states to provide the necessary information concerning health, nutrition and literacy levels and measures they are adopting to improve those levels so that the Commission may expand its efforts to make economic and social rights effective.


          7.          Again urges the member states that have not yet done so to ratify or adhere to the American Convention on Human Rights.


          8.          Also urges that the states parties of the American Convention on Human Rights accept the competence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to hear all cases related to the interpretation or application of that Convention.




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