Human Rights Take Center Stage at OAS

By Colin Norcross-Joyce

WASHINGTON D.C. (UN Press Corps) - October of 1889 proved to be a pivotal time for North and South America with the creation of the “Organization of American States.” The OAS was created with the principals of the Monroe Doctrine in mind, suggesting that, if any country were to attack any nation in South or North America, it would be an attack on both continents. The OAS has gone through some change since its inception and today has grown to incorporate 35 member states and developed four main pillars that incorporate the ideals for which the organization exists to promote: Democracy, human rights, security, and development.  

In recent years, outlash over government oppression and the call for the protection of the right to protest have been on the rise. Systemic military suppression of civilians has caused protestors to start to take serious, but mostly peaceful action against this “censorship.” In the Argentinian “Year of Lead”, also known as the “Dirty War of the 70’s and 80’s”, mothers of children who had been separated from their families would hold mass gatherings in support and solidarity against the government, which eventually caused a victory for the Argentinian people. In spite of the positive outcomes that these civil protests can have on the public's well being, they can also cause larger problems to arise. One such example occurred in the resignation of former Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, ultimately transferring power from one corrupt party to another.

The organization now faces the fact that some South American countries, such as Venezuela, cannot support their citizens, cannot provide for the civil good, and refuse to give its citizens full civil rights. Some of these nations have fallen into a state of nearly full economic collapse and are unable to pull themselves out. Unfortunately, there is very little citizens can do. Corrupt governments have enacted anti protest laws under the name and mission of “anti terrorist laws” which have not only stopped protest but have impeded on the lives of their citizens. The use of the military in these situation has also proven to be controversial and, in most cases, deadly. To lessen the effects of military use to deter protesters, governments have ordered soldiers to use “less lethal” forms of control such as rubber bullets and tear gas. When the military is not in use to control protesting, inadequately trained police personnel are assigned.

Thus far throughout committee proceedings, the delegation of Haiti has been a strong advocate for the protection of the civil rights of its citizens as well as those in other countries. Their plan centers around proper training for police and military personnel, such as training in the correct use of non-lethal crowd control weapons from rubber bullet guns to rubber batons. Haiti also stressed the importance of education and a free press that informs and educates citizens to better protect themselves, stating that “We are looking for all countries to benefit from these efforts.”

Regional bodies such as the OAS all face very similar situations in today's unpredictable and unstable world and have a large responsibility to the underrepresented and oppressed citizens of the world. The question of the reliability of these organizations to solve these specific civil problems remains to be seen but one thing is for certain: if action is not taken quickly, these people may have no future of civil rights.