Settlement agreement between ACIJ and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, concerning case 23360/0 of 2008
Settlement agreement signed between ACIJ and the City of Buenos Aires Government to ensure an adequate number of places are available in public schools in order to fulfill the rights to education and equality.
In 2006, Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ), an organization member of the ESCR-Net, filed an amparo action against the Government of the City of Buenos Aires. The purpose of the action was to have the Court order the Government to comply with its existing constitutional obligation to ensure and finance access to early education. The case centered on violations of the right to education and to equality, as well as the principle of personal autonomy.
Although the local constitution requires the State “…to ensure and finance public education (…) starting at forty-five days…,” ACIJ showed that since 2002 public school places at the early education level had been insufficient to comply with such obligation. Thousands of children were being left out of the public school system, while the school works budget was being underspent (as between 2002 and 2005 average spending had been 32.3% below budget).
The case was decided favorably in the first and second instances, with the courts acknowledging the rights to education and personal autonomy, and the advantages of early education. The courts recognized that the State had violated its obligations and that the underspending of budget allocations violated the obligation to exhaust all available resources.
When the case reached the Superior Tribunal of Justice, the parties reached a settlement agreement. Under the agreement, the Government promised to execute building plans to address the lack of vacant places and to allocate sufficient resources to implement its constitutional obligation regarding early childhood education in each budget plan.
The agreement was executed in February 2011 and it is still being implemented. The agreement created two specific instruments aimed at facilitating its implementation: appointing a court auditor (an expert who would prepare works progress reports on a regular basis) and setting up a bimonthly work group (made up of representatives from both parties and aimed at monitoring implementation of the agreement, including proposing corrective actions).
In October 2014, the Executive submitted a budget bill for 2015 before the legislature, which did not include enough resources to execute the works contained in the agreement. Following a report by ACIJ, the court ordered (on 11/17/2014) the Government to provide a detailed explanation of every item in the budget referring to the obligations required by the agreement. The Government had 10 days to submit the explanation and was warned that failure to comply would lead to a fine. Finally, and after a campaign in support of the court’s order, the budget allocation was increased by 60 million pesos.
The implementation of the agreement has been extremely difficult, on the one hand, and very rewarding, on the other hand. Although the works are not fully completed (and delayed), there has been progress: new school places have been created, a new registration system has been implemented, and budget underspending has reduced considerably.
ACIJ is a non-governmental organization working to defend the rights of disadvantaged groups and to strengthen democracy in Argentina.
This case was important because it clarified the content of the obligation to exhaust all available resources (by stating that budget underspending was a violation of the said obligation) and set clear guidelines regarding the actions that States must undertake to fulfill their ESCR obligations.
Furthermore, the case provided an example of how implementation can work in practice (with the formation of a work group, and the appointing a a court auditor). Also, the decision has indirectly impacted the lives of women, as they are the primary caregivers in society.
Finally, the case had a major impact, since it involved building schools throughout a city of 3 million inhabitants, and it had a direct effect on the budget, which also provided ample visibility to the issue.