Fostering the Campaign for the Ratification of the OP-ICESCR at MERCOSUR
The NGO Coalition for the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) attended the XXV Meeting of High Authorities on Human Rights of MERCOSUR (RAADDHH) on 20-21 November 2014, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This high-level meeting is held twice a year and brings together ministers and human rights authorities of the South American regional bloc, as well as other relevant actors, such as civil society organizations and intergovernmental organizations.
The NGO Coalition represented by its Campaign Coordinator, Ivahanna Larrosa, and some of its local members, including CELS and AIAR, were present to promote ratification of the OP-ICESCR in direct conversation with country representatives and via strategic exchanges with members and allies. During the space reserved for civil society representatives to speak, the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR took the floor to recognize the regional advances in terms of reinforcing access to justice for violations of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), highlighting the six ratifying countries from South and Central America. The Coalition also called on Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela and Surinam, to advance national processes to ratify the OP-ICESCR. All are parties to the ICESCR.
The RAADDHH was well attended by country representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela. Additionally, representatives from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), UN High Commissioner for Refugees – (UNHCR), and the Office of High Commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) Southern Regional Office, as well as the President of the G77, made remarks at the plenary session on Friday, 21 November.
MERCOSUR members and associate countries informed the plenary of advances and current work related to human rights in each country and regionally, as well as outlining the challenges they face. All States reaffirmed their commitments to respect, protect and fulfill their HR obligations and highlighted regional leadership in moving forward key human rights issues at the international scenario. Paraguay, for example, remarked that the country is advancing efforts to meet its human rights obligations in its new role as member of the Human Rights Council. Bolivia and Peru emphasized that the region has contributed to the definition of human rights, for instance by incorporating the indigenous concept of “buen vivir". Argentina, chairing the high level meeting, stressed the advances made in the region to implement the economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). In particular, countries recognized the work done by the Institute of Public Policies on Human Rights, led by Victor Abramovich, and welcomed the development of ESCR indicators. Argentina also highlighted the obligations of all States parties under international and regional treaties and called on to States to continue advancing human rights.
Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, and Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi, in charge of the ESCR Unit, addressed the Plenary to call for more support from States to fully implement the ESCR Rapporteurship at the Inter-American System.
Ambassador Sacha Llorenti, President of G77, highlighted the key role of the region and the G77 at the international level in making linkages between and advancing understanding of how the international economy architecture impacts human rights. In this sense, he noted resolutions at the UN, challenging the status quo and foregrounding issues of “vulture funds” and sovereign debt restructuring, as well as strengthening human rights accountability for corporations.
On 20 November, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child, the RAADDHH Working Group on children rights, together with States representatives, paid tribute to Mrs. Estela Barnes de Carlotto, President of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, for her contributions to children´s rights.
 MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur) is a sub-regional bloc composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia (in process of becoming full member) and Venezuela. Its associate countries are Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana and Surinam, in the process of ratification.
 Buen Vivir is a Spanish phrase used in Latin America to describe alternatives to development focused on collective and individual elements of a good and sustainable life in a broad sense. Social movements actively use the term, and it has become a popular term in some government programs, including via incorporation in the Constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia.