National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Latin America – also known
as Public Defenders, Ombudsman Offices, Human Rights Commissions or
Human Rights Attorneys – take on a variety of roles. Overall, they aim
to bring civil society demands before public authorities, mediate social
conflicts of public interest and provide an array of inclusive
mechanisms for social involvement. They also influence public policies
to incorporate a human rights approach, address cases of serious human
rights violations, promote victims’ rights and issue recommendations to
authorities in order to reinstitute their rights. Overall, these
institutions also serve as a means of balancing power asymmetries
between the State and the citizenry and promoting accountability amongst
government agencies. This Brief analyses innovative practices
implemented by Latin America’s NHRIs, as well as the contextual elements
which have made their development and efficient enforcement possible.
Within contexts of severe deteriorations in the enforcement and validity
of human rights - as was the case during the region’s dictatorships and
civil wars - NHRIs have become key players in re-establishing democratic
conditions in many Latin American countries.
Within countries that adhere to international Treaties or Regulations on
human rights, the NHRIs can play an essential role in achieving the
immediate and effective enforcement of human rights at the national
From the moment they were recognised legally or constitutionally by
their countries, NHRIs have been able to establish a mandate which is
interpreted proactively and with guarantees backing it. This recognition
has also allowed them to take part in creating public policies with a
human rights approach and has empowered them to effectively promote,
defend and protect human rights.
López, C; Moguel, M. ELLA Policy Brief: Latin America&#8217;s National Human Rights Institutions: Fostering Democratic Transitions and Guaranteeing Human Rights. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2012) 7 pp.