OAS Assembly Defeats Attacks on Rapporteur

14 June 2013

The General Assembly of the Organization of American States June 6 again protected the independence of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Attacks on their independence by Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela have become almost perennial. The outcome this year was brokered by Mexico during an intense debate (see the video, also web page with many documents about the debate.).

The compromise prevented the Special Rapporteur from having to do the annual report on human rights in conjunction with an OAS department that reports to the Secretary General.

Irksome to supporters of the commission, but included in the resolution, is language that “instructs” the commission on certain other matters. While the directions themselves are relatively noncontroversial, they are seen as a mild threat to the independence of the commission.

The resolution (SpanishEnglishFrenchPortuguese) was adopted at the meeting in Guatemala.

It encourages member states to consider the application and implementation of the Model Law on Access to Public Information. Member states are urged to conduct national and regional seminars on the model law and consider how to adopt its provisions.

It instructs the OAS General Secretariat to support implementation of the model law in the region.

Report Causes Debate

The Special Rapporteur’s annual report on the status of the state of access to public information attracted the most controversy.

Ecuador pressed a proposal for the report to be done jointly with the OAS Department of International Law. Opponents of the idea see the department as being tied to political interests and said joint authorship would undercut the rapporteur’s  independence.  Canada pressed for a vote, expecting to defeat the motion, but Mexico sought time to reach a compromise.

The outcome calls for the report to be done “with the support” of the Department of International Law, eliminating the specter of control.

In related developments, Ecuador’s candidate to be a human rights commissioner was defeated by one vote and a proposal to mandate a special report on good practices, opposed as a drain on commission resources, was rejected.

On other topics, the resolution urges member states to support the work of the Latin American Network of Personal Data Protection (RIPD) and actively participate in the World Conferences Fees Privacy and Protection of Personal Data.  

The Inter-American Juridical Committee is advised to make proposals to the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs on the different ways of regulating the protection of personal data, including a draft Model Law on Protection of Personal Data, taking into account international standards in the field.

The General Secretariat is asked to identify new resources to support the efforts of member states to facilitate access to public information and personal data protection, and encourage other donors to contribute to this work.

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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