In order to fight inequality and discrimination, governments in the Americas must adopt all measures necessary to ensure full enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights in the region, Amnesty International said today in an open letter to the heads of state who will attend the 52nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). In addition, they must guarantee protection for refugees and migrants who face high levels of violence and discrimination based on their gender, race, or nationality, among other factors.
“The main theme of the OAS General Assembly is ‘together against inequality and discrimination’, but it is time for governments to move from words to urgent action to tackle the systemic failures that are preventing the full realization of human rights for all people in the region. This requires comprehensive action to dismantle inequality, racism, and discrimination,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
As Amnesty International has documented, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated the deep structural inequalities in the Americas that are rooted in economic, racial and gender-based factors. Many people in the region, among them women, Indigenous people, and people of African descent, suffered disproportionately in terms of rights to life, health, social protection, and the rights to an adequate standard of living and to work.
Emergency measures adopted by governments to deal with the pandemic have not been sufficient insofar as complying with their duty to eradicate discrimination and actively promote substantive equality in the enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic and social rights.
The main theme of the OAS General Assembly is ‘together against inequality and discrimination’, but it is time for governments to move from words to urgent action to tackle the systemic failures that are preventing the full realization of human rights for all people in the region.Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International
Furthermore, the structural problems in the health systems in the Americas in terms of free and universal access and adequate budgetary and human resources mean that the healthcare systems do not comply with the requirements of accessibility, availability, quality, and cultural relevance established by the right to health.
Almost every country in the region spends less than 6% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on public health, which is the standard set by the Pan-American Health Organization to achieve universal health coverage. Governments in the Americas must, at the very least, ensure that public spending on health is at least 6% of GDP as established by PAHO. To achieve this, they must organize their tax policies, both in revenue collection and expenditure, in order to progressively seek to significantly reduce discrimination and inequality.
The American continent is the location of some of the world’s most important cross-border movements of people. The human rights crisis in Venezuela has forced more than 6.8 million people to flee the country in search of international protection. Meanwhile, the political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti has led to the movement of thousands of people who are trapped at different borders in the region. In addition, as a result of the situation of generalized violence, compounded by natural disasters associated with climate change in Central America, tens of thousands of people from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have set off for the north of the continent.
For women refugees and migrants, their migration status is a risk factor that increases their vulnerability, exposing them to gender-based violence throughout the migration route or in the cities where they decide to stay. A recent Amnesty International investigation revealed that figures on gender-based violence against Venezuelan women refugees in Colombia and Peru have increased alarmingly in recent years.
In the case of Haiti, Amnesty International concluded that the mass or collective expulsions of Haitian asylum seekers by US authorities under Title 42 form part of a practice of detention, exclusion, and deterrence based on systematic discrimination against people of African descent. The treatment of Haitians by US authorities constitutes race-based torture under international human rights law.