IN WHICH FURTHER STEPS ARE NEEDED TO GIVE EFFECT TO THE
RIGHTS SET FORTH IN THE AMERICAN DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS
DUTIES OF MAN AND THE AMERICAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
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
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
In view of the foregoing considerations, the Commission:
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.
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.
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.
Recommends to the member states that they adopt the necessary
measures to hasten the elimination of extreme poverty within their
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.
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.
Again urges the member states that have not yet done so to ratify
or adhere to the American Convention on Human Rights.
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