Building institutional capacity at the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen
Title: Building institutional capacity at the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico; Panama; Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela; Andorra, Portugal, Spain
Lead executing agency: Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO)
Overall term: 2015 to 2016
A high degree of social injustice prevails in Latin America, frequently coupled with human rights violations. Nowadays, it is not so much citizens’ political rights that are being infringed, but rather their social and cultural rights, such as the right to work, the right to health care and the right to a well-preserved environment. Although the state of human rights in Latin America has improved in recent years, disadvantaged groups remain particularly at risk, for example indigenous groups, children and young people, migrants, women, and people who face discrimination due to their sexual orientation (homosexual, transsexual, bisexual and intersex individuals).
Alongside the judiciary, the national ombudspersons have the task of supporting people whose rights have been violated and cutting through red tape to ensure that justice is done. This may include, for example, dealing with cases where requests for medical treatment have been refused for no good reason or where prison visiting rights have been violated. They can also mediate in social conflicts and exert targeted influence on political actors by submitting recommendations on issues such as simplifying the process for issuing identity cards to the indigenous population or informing the public about the issue of child labour.
These institutions can be used without cost by all citizens, in particular those from disadvantaged groups, to register complaints in the case of rights violations, to demand state services, or to report general grievances. Ombudspersons’ offices, however, are frequently poorly equipped and have a limited scope for action. The human, financial and institutional resources are therefore often insufficient to effectively protect the human rights of disadvantaged groups.
In 1995, the ombudspersons’ offices of the Latin American states as well as Spain, Portugal and Andorra set up the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (Federación Iberoamericana del Ombudsman, FIO) to improve the exchange of experiences and cooperation between the ombudspersons’ offices in Latin America and thus contribute more effectively to protecting human rights.
The institutional and human capacities of the ombudspersons’ offices of the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen (FIO) to protect disadvantaged groups are improved.
The measure promotes cooperation and information sharing. The association currently has four thematic working groups organised as networks that promote dialogue among members on the issues of children and young people’s rights, women’s rights, migration and human trafficking, and communication. These groups receive support in the form of specialist, political and process-related advice. The project assists them in drawing up and implementing annual work plans, identifying and dealing with issues relevant to vulnerable groups, sharing good administrative practice with one another, and positioning FIO in relation to these issues at international level.
The project is supporting FIO to position itself more strategically so that it can play a more prominent role on an international level and be recognised as an important actor for the protection of human rights internationally. The project is supporting these developments by providing advice and managing organisational development processes.
FIO has solid structures, and four formal working groups efficiently facilitate transfer of knowledge among the members. A strategic action plan was introduced in 2014, outlining how FIO’s development will be managed over the next few years. Members are well-positioned due to systematic gender mainstreaming; they are capable of protecting individuals more effectively from government abuses and human rights violations. Complaints from disadvantaged groups are collected in a differentiated manner so that the ombudspersons’ offices can address them more quickly and effectively.