Human Rights Day is celebrated every December 10th to commemorate the date that the United Nations General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The importance of this historic moment lies in the proclamation of the existence of inherent rights for all people equally regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion or any other condition.

While States are responsible for respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights –whether these are civil, political, social, economic, cultural or environmental- today significant violations of those rights are occurring in the region. This situation goes hand in hand with the serious inequalities present in Latin America and the increased instability in areas such as the environment, labor, social security and health. While data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) show a significant reduction in inequality in the region, it has also found that this process is beginning to slow (Amarante and Colacce, 2018).

As part of its work, the Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA) has explored how States have fulfilled those obligations and, in particular, has studied how justice systems have contributed to bringing cases of ESCER (economic, social, cultural and environmental rights) violations to justice along with the use of strategies for making them enforceable outside of formal institutions.

In one of its most recent studies, JSCA carried out intense work with various researchers from Latin America at the request of the German Cooperation Agency GIZ-Dirajus. The result was the publication of three reports on the “Dialogue on the Legal Protection of the Rights to Health, Education, Labor, Social Security and the Environment in Latin American nations.” The authors found that there continue to be significant challenges in the protection of rights, especially ESCER, in regard to the reduction of barriers to access to justice, development of case law and the application of international human rights standards by tribunals and courts, sentence enforcement, timely case resolution and other matters.

On this day of commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, JSCA calls on all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to build a Latin America that is more respectful of human rights and the dignity of the people of the region.