Report of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order on his mission to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador (A/HRC/39/47/Add.1)
The present report summarizes the results of the mission of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador, two member States of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America,1 at the invitation of the respective Governments. The mission focused on alternative social and economic models and their implications for a democratic and equitable international order, with one leg in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from 26 November to 4 December and another in Ecuador from 4 to 9 December 2017 (see annex I). The particularities of each country are sui generis and should not be amalgamated. The parameters of the mission were announced in a statement issued on 27 November 2017.2
The Human Rights Council, in its resolution 18/6 creating the mandate of the Independent Expert, reaffirmed the determination to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. It also reaffirmed the need to continue working urgently for the establishment of an international economic order based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, irrespective of their economic and social systems. It instructed the mandate holder to work in cooperation with States in order to foster the adoption of measures at the local, national, regional and international levels aimed at the promotion and protection of a democratic and equitable international order.
The duty of the special procedures is to learn about the situations on the ground, listen to stakeholders on all sides, evaluate documents, ask targeted questions, and formulate constructive recommendations. A result-oriented mission aims at understanding the problems in a political, economic, psychological and historical context, so as to propose measures to better realize all human rights. A comprehensive approach requires, inter alia, consideration of the constitutions, laws and practices of States, as well as of reports by intergovernmental organizations and conferences, including the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Union of South American Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, Summits of the Americas and People’s Summits, reports issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, national reports submitted for the universal periodic review and State party reports to the treaty bodies. In drafting the present report, the Independent Expert benefited from studying mission reports by the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Virginia Dandan, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, and the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy. He also consulted publications by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, civil society organizations and universities (see annexes II and VII).
As one of the few special procedure mandate holders to be given access to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador, expectations for the mission were high. While the Independent Expert could not fulfil the hopes of some sectors of civil society and remain within the parameters of his mandate, he listened to their grievances and transmitted their concerns to the competent rapporteurs and working groups. He informed his interlocutors that he was not “the United Nations”, a super-rapporteur, a plenipotentiary or a country rapporteur, but an independent expert for international order. He invited interlocutors to give him information and petitions on issues which could be examined in depth by the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, on the independence of judges and lawyers, on the right to food, on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, on the rights of indigenous peoples, and by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. He took the opportunity of informing government authorities of these concerns, which he incorporated into his preliminary recommendations.
The present report gives a fresh look at the realities of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador, two countries that have adopted differing socioeconomic models when tackling internal issues of poverty, health care, housing and education. In both countries, the Independent Expert learned of problems associated with corruption, financial constraints, para-institutional failures, and lingering difficulties in ensuring free, prior and informed consent in the extractive field, particularly concerning indigenous communities. In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, he observed the adverse impacts of inflation, price controls,3 contraband,4 inefficient distribution, mismanagement, and repression of dissent.
He listened to hundreds of stakeholders, including representatives of United Nations agencies and the Organization of American States (OAS), and received a wealth of information. The visits included meetings with ministers of both countries, ambassadors, diplomats, government officials, church leaders, academics, economists, students, and civil society organizations. In particular cases, he was approached by, and heard the stories of, individual victims. He balanced his meetings between different groups and was proactive in demanding targeted information. After the mission, he requested and received additional information, which he duly reflected, confident that the dialogue begun with each Government will continue through the visits of other rapporteurs.
His methodology followed the principle audiatur et altera pars (listen to all sides), and the letter and spirit of the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council, article 3 (a) of which stipulates that mandate holders shall act in an independent capacity and exercise their functions in accordance with their mandate. Article 6 requires mandate holders to establish the facts, based on objective, reliable information emanating from relevant credible sources that they have duly cross-checked to the best extent possible; take into account in a comprehensive and timely manner in particular information provided by the State concerned on situations relevant to their mandate; evaluate all information in the light of internationally recognized human rights standards relevant to their mandate, and of international conventions to which the State concerned is a party. In assessing the evidence, the Independent Expert was critical both of governmental and civil society sources, conscious of the possibility of distortions and suppression of evidence. He considered whether specific cases were representative and avoided extrapolation. He kept an open mind, ready to change perspective in the light of evidence received from stakeholders on all sides.
After his mission, he continued to follow developments in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, including the refusal of the opposition to sign the negotiated agreement of 7 February 2018, the Declaration of the Summit of the Americas5 and that of the People’s Summit,6 both held in Lima in April 2018.
Having arrived at his own diagnoses, he proposes how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries, including through dialogue, increased international cooperation, and reform of treaties, legislation and practices. The mission examined efforts to advance social progress and better standards of living consistent with the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the agendas of the World Social Forums since the first one was held in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He paid special attention to the reports presented by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador to the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and studied the concluding observations of those bodies. He compared their analyses with the relevant reports issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights between 2013 and 20187 and the responses of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador thereto.
The present report considers the relevance of General Assembly resolutions on international order, including 2625 (XXV) on friendly relations, 72/4 on the United States embargo against Cuba, and 60/1 on the 2005 World Summit Outcome, which reaffirms that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives, that democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and that while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy. Thus, the models of democracy of the “Revolución Bolivariana”8 in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the “Revolución Ciudadana”9 in Ecuador deserve attention.10
The socioeconomic models prevalent in both countries, as well as in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, reveal possibilities of greater regional integration and cooperation with international organizations, particularly the United Nations system, which can assist governments to achieve social progress and strengthen civil liberties. The Independent Expert noted the eradication of illiteracy,11 free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.
It is appropriate for rapporteurs to highlight beneficial initiatives and recognize lessons learned. In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Gran Misión Vivienda lowcost housing programme has contributed to saving millions of persons from homelessness. Over two million housing units have been delivered to persons who would otherwise live in shanty towns. In order to address hunger, the Local Supply and Production Committees provide needy Venezuelans with 16kg packages containing sugar, flour, dried milk, oil etc., as the Independent Expert was able to verify at the Urbanización Nelson Mandela. Another social acquis, El Sistema, established by the late José Antonio Abreu, has offered free musical education to over one million youngsters,12 contributing to a reduction in juvenile delinquency. Gustavo Dudamel, 13 Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a product of El Sistema.
In Ecuador, the Independent Expert sought to learn about the initiatives to draft a binding legal instrument on the social responsibility of transnational enterprises, 14 establishing a United Nations tax authority to prevent tax evasion and illicit financial flows,15 efforts toward a financial transactions tax,16 advances on the draft declaration on the rights of peasants, 17 and the continued struggle against corruption and international money-laundering.18
He recognizes that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services. A priority for both countries is to promote dialogue among all sectors of the population. The genuine thirst for peace and justice, which the Ecuadorians call buen vivir, is reflected in the 2013 Quito Communiqué adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union 19 and in the 2014 CELAC declaration proclaiming Latin America and the Caribbean a “zone of peace”.