On December 3, representatives of governments from across the Americas will meet in Bogota, Colombia to discuss how to address Venezuela’s crisis in the framework of the Organ of Consultation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR). But while 19 countries from across the hemisphere are members of the TIAR, there has been no invitation to regional civil society to share concerns and provide expertise to official counterparts.
For this reason 32 leading civil society organizations in Venezuela and other countries in the hemisphere have signed a letter (view here for English, and here for Spanish) asking our respective governments to adhere to Organization of American States (OAS) norms regarding civil society participation in the course of meetings of the Organ of Consultation. While our petition to participate in the December 3 meeting has been denied, we respectfully request that regional governments include civil society in future meetings in the TIAR mechanism.
In recent years the governments of our hemisphere have played a fundamental role in denouncing the ongoing assault by Nicolas Maduro against Venezuela’s democratic institutions and repeated human rights violations, including violence against protesters, cracking down on dissent, and persecuting the democratically-elected National Assembly. In formal multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as ad hoc bodies such as the Lima Group and International Contact Group, our governments have focused international attention on the brutal reality of Venezuela’s crisis.
However, in repeated meetings of many of these bodies, to date there have been limited efforts to incorporate the participation of Venezuelan and other regional civil society organizations. Considering that the TIAR Organ of Consultation was first convened following a resolution of the OAS Permanent Council, we believe that this body should adhere to norms regarding the involvement of non-governmental organizations in the Inter-American System. We note with approval that the most recent 49th General Assembly of the OAS adopted AG/RES. 2933 (XLIX-O/19), which resolved to “continue facilitating the implementation of strategies, forums, and mechanisms for promoting, increasing, and strengthening participation by civil society organizations.” We also point out that this General Assembly highlighted CP/RES.759 (1217/99), which states that “civil society organizations may attend the activities of the OAS, make presentations, provide information, and, at the request of the organs, agencies, and entities of the OAS, provide expert advice.”
The 28 signing organizations are asking our respective governments to support our request to provide a platform in the upcoming TIAR meeting in which civil society organizations may present information on relevant aspects of Venezuela’s crisis and the appropriate international response. In particular, we request space to recommend that in their efforts to resolve the Venezuelan crisis, regional governments:
- Refrain from supporting the use of force, and insist on a political, non-violent solution that restores democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. A military option would prove disastrous for all involved, and would exacerbate the regional migration crisis. Moreover, keeping a so-called military option on the table as a possible policy alternative has not proven to be an effective pressure strategy. Instead, it has driven parties to take more extreme positions, and has harmed efforts towards unified political organization within the country.
- Ensure that any economic sanctions avoid exacerbating the country’s complex humanitarian emergency. Research shows that general economic sanctions, in addition to contributing to widespread suffering, do not usually achieve their desired results. Instead, sanctions are most effective when they are directed at specific individuals for reasons related to corruption and human rights violations, are tied to specific and concrete outcomes, and when the conditions for their relief are clearly communicated.
- Support a more robust humanitarian response. The international community should address the humanitarian crisis by supporting experienced actors that are working on the ground to meet humanitarian needs. This includes independent national and international humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies active in Venezuela. To date the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for the last quarter of 2019—which already fell short of the full needs of the population—has received just 14 percent of the US$223 million needed for its implementation.
- Encourage the UN Secretary General to be more engaged in the Venezuela crisis by using states’ voices and votes in the United Nations system. We believe that the Secretary General has an important role to play in building support for a political solution in Venezuela, as well as in urging for a stronger humanitarian response both inside the country and to the needs of migrants and refugees in the region.
- Engage in all possible advocacy for the prompt restoration of human rights to the Venezuelan people. It is imperative to continue insisting on Venezuelans’ right to political and electoral participation, and on a solution which allows them to be consulted in a sovereign, free, transparent, and democratic way regarding their own fate.
Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA), Venezuela
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB), Venezuela
Acción Solidaria, Venezuela
Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ), Venezuela
Caleidoscopio Humano, Venezuela
Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional, Venezuela
Labo Ciudadano, Venezuela
Asociación Civil AMBAR, Venezuela
Asociación Civil Reforma Judicial, Venezuela
Asociación Civil Fundación Justicia, Solidaridad, y Paz (FUNPAZ), Venezuela
Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados (SJR-Venezuela), Venezuela
Proyecto Hikola, Venezuela
Red Feminista Mérida, Venezuela
Grupo de Trabajo Socioambiental de la Amazonía-Wataniba, Venezuela
La Comisión para los Derechos Humanos y la Ciudadanía (CODEHCIU), Venezuela
Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES), Colombia
La Clínica Jurídica para Migrantes de la Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
Caribe Afirmativo, Colombia
Programa de Protección Internacional de la Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia
Pastoral Social Cáritas Colombiana, Colombia
Misión Scalabriniana Ecuador, Ecuador
Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados (SJR-Ecuador), Ecuador
Conectas Direitos Humanos, Brazil
Serviço Jesuíta a Migrantes e Refugiados (SJR-Brazil), Brazil
La Clínica Jurídica de Atención a Migrantes de la Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile
Sin Fronteras IAP, Mexico
Centro para la Observación Migratoria y el Desarrollo Social en el Caribe (OBMICA), Dominican Republic
Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados – Latin America and the Caribbean (SJR-LAC), International
International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, International
Foro Penal, International
Athena Lab for Social Change, United States
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), United States