FAAE Committee Report
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RESPONSE TO THE SEVENTH REPORT OF THE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
“OVERCOMING VIOLENCE AND IMPUNITY: HUMAN RIGHTS CHALLENGES IN HONDURAS”
During the 1st and 2nd Sessions of the 41st Parliament, the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights (the Subcommittee) undertook a study of the human rights situation in Honduras. The Subcommittee’s report, entitled “Overcoming Violence and Impunity: Human Rights Challenges in Honduras,“ was tabled by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SCFAID) on March 30, 2015, and it makes 12 recommendations.
In undertaking its report, the Subcommittee called witnesses with a wide range of views in order to gain as comprehensive a picture as possible of the complex Honduran situation. These witnesses included government officials, Canadian and Honduran non-governmental organizations (NGOs), representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the private sector, academics, experts and others. The Subcommittee’s report and its 12 recommendations emerged from this informed perspective and reflect a balanced and realistic assessment of the situation in Honduras.
The Government acknowledges the many hours of testimony and research that contributed to the Subcommittee’s report and thanks Subcommittee members for their work in highlighting actions the Government can take to continue to contribute to improved citizen security and human rights in Honduras. The Government of Canada agrees with all the recommendations and finds them broadly consistent with policies and programs already underway within the current scope of Canadian government activities.
The Government shares the Subcommittee’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Canada’s whole-of-government Strategy for Engagement in the Americas aims to support a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere by advancing its three goals of: 1) Increasing mutual economic opportunity; 2) Addressing insecurity and advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law through capacity building; and 3) Fostering lasting relationships. Canada’s engagement in Honduras places significant priority on the second goal of this strategy in an effort to deepen cooperation to strengthen security, reduce vulnerability to threats and ensure reliable institutions that citizens can trust and with which we can collaborate.
Pursuant to the House of Commons Standing Order 109, the Government is responding to the Subcommittee’s report. This Government Response presents information about current programs and initiatives, as well as those the Government is putting in place, and future actions that will be taken to implement the 12 recommendations.
The recommendations fall into five areas:
- Diplomatic interventions with the Government of Honduras to encourage greater vigilance in various areas;
- Diplomatic support to human rights defenders under threat;
- Monitoring the Honduran government’s implementation of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) precautionary measures;
- Continuing development assistance and security programming that improves citizen security and respect for human rights; and
- Trade and corporate social responsibility.
Part (I) Diplomatic Interventions with the Government of Honduras to encourage greater vigilance in various areas
The Subcommittee makes eight recommendations that fall within the theme of diplomatic interventions with the Government of Honduras:
Recommendation 1 – That the Government of Canada take advantage of appropriate opportunities to stress to the Government of Honduras the need for independent, impartial investigations into killings, threats and other attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, justice sector workers and other peaceful activists in Honduras.
Recommendation 3 – That the Government of Canada raise with the Government of Honduras the murders of lawyer Antonio Trejo and his brother, Jose Trejo.
Recommendation 4 – That the Government of Canada raise with the Government of Honduras the issue of the continuing threats and attacks against members of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH).
Recommendation 6 – That the Government of Canada encourage the Government of Honduras to increase its engagement with Honduran human rights defenders, civil society organizations, journalists and media workers, in particular when it is planning legislation or initiatives that may have an impact on human rights.
Recommendation 7 – That the Government of Canada call upon the Government of Honduras to accelerate efforts to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in particular by ensuring that those responsible for the human rights violations documented by the Commission are brought to justice.
Recommendation 8 – That the Government of Canada urge the Government of Honduras to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation to remove political and policing functions from the mandate of the Honduran Armed Forces and to ensure that the Armed Forces remain under effective civil control.
Recommendation 9 – That the Government of Canada reiterate to the Government of Honduras the importance Canada places on ensuring the independence and impartiality of the Honduran judiciary.
Recommendation 10 – That the Government of Canada continue to raise human rights issues in the G-16 group of 16 donor countries and to encourage this group to push for greater respect for human rights by the Government of Honduras.
The Government agrees with the recommendations to intervene diplomatically with the Government of Honduras to urge greater respect for human rights. Notably since the re-establishment of democracy in Honduras in 2010, the Canadian Government, at the ministerial and officials’ level, has regularly raised its concerns, including specific cases, with the Honduran government and within multilateral fora such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This addresses Recommendation 1.
By way of introduction, it is important to make clear that in the Government of Canada’s view, prosperity, security and democratic governance, including full respect for human rights, are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. In Honduras, serious development and security challenges are having a negative impact on human rights; the country’s poor record in the areas of both security and human rights are linked to persistent institutional weakness.
Canada and Honduras have a diverse and growing relationship which includes longstanding and substantial development cooperation and frank exchanges on the ongoing political, security and human rights issues in Honduras. For many years, Canada has worked on several fronts to help the Honduran government reform its institutions and cope with its development, security and human rights challenges through both programming and policy dialogue. Through the Government of Canada’s diplomacy, trade and development interventions, Canada is recognized as a key partner for the Government of Honduras and among donors in the country. For example, Canada is the third largest bilateral donor and one of the founding members of the Alliance for the Dry Corridor, an initiative championed by the President of Honduras to promote sustainable economic growth and donor coordination in one of the poorest regions of the country. Canada is well-positioned to continue to positively contribute to security and sustainable economic and social development in Honduras. This is achieved by pursuing Canadian policy priorities and aligning them with Honduran government development objectives.
The government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez has assured Canada on multiple occasions that it is committed to addressing many of the same security and human rights challenges raised by the Subcommittee. Some progress has been made. For example, a new Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists and Judiciary Representatives was approved in April 2015. According to official statistics, in the past three years, the homicide rate has declined from 90.4 per 100,000 inhabitants to 68 per 100,000 inhabitants, due to efforts made by the Government of Honduras which Canada supported with security and justice reform programming described below (see Part IV on International and Security Assistance – Recommendation 11).
In the last few years, many Canadian Ministers have traveled to Honduras, taking the opportunity to raise security and human rights concerns with their counterparts, including specific cases of human rights violations. This includes the 2012 murders of leading human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera and his brother in Tegucigalpa, as well as other high profile murder cases such as those of prosecutors Marlene Banegas and Olga Eufragio in San Pedro Sula in 2014. This addresses Recommendation 3.
Following the 2009 coup d’état which removed President Manuel Zelaya from power, the Government of Canada actively supported a peaceful, negotiated solution to the political crisis. Former Minister of State (Americas) Peter Kent made numerous personal interventions following the coup d’état, participating in OAS high-level visits to Honduras and working to coordinate the response of the international community. Canada was also a strong advocate for the creation of the Honduras Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established to examine the causes of the coup d’état and identify ways of avoiding a similar crisis in the future. Canada provided funding to support the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations, released in July 2011, and has continued to follow-up on the progress made by the Monitoring Unit of the Honduran government on the recommendations presented by the TRC, including on specific cases of human rights abuses. This addresses Recommendations 7 and 8.
In March 2012, former Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), Diane Ablonczy, met with Honduras’ then Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Ana Pineda. During that meeting, she stressed Canada’s interest in human rights and expressed concern regarding serious and credible reports of ongoing human rights abuses in Honduras.
In January 2014, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular) Lynne Yelich travelled to Honduras for the inauguration of President Juan Orlando Hernandez. She took the opportunity to highlight the long tradition of cooperation between Canada and Honduras in the areas of development, trade, democratic governance, human rights and security. More specifically, she met with Honduran Attorney General Oscar Chinchilla Banegas and addressed the issues of justice, security and human rights. She also announced Canada's contribution of an Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) to facilitate the identification of weapons used in crimes including, but not limited to, crimes against human rights defenders. The provision of IBIS equipment to Honduras could help combat threats to security not only in Honduras, but in all of Central America, as ballistic analysis information can be shared through a regional network of IBIS systems. Regional cooperation facilitated by training and equipment is a critical element of Canada’s engagement in the Americas and the fight against transnational organized crime in the region. This addresses Recommendation 1.
Honduras’ Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Maria del Carmen Nasser, and Deputy Minister for Human Rights Karla Cueva, visited Ottawa on June 17, 2014, and held a roundtable discussion with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) about the human rights situation in Honduras. Canada used the opportunity to raise its concerns and gather information on efforts being made by the Government of Honduras to improve respect for human rights in this country.
On October 1, 2014, the entry into force of the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (CHFTA), and parallel Agreements on Labour and Environmental Cooperation, were celebrated during the visit to Ottawa of Honduras’ former Secretary of State, Mireya Agüero de Corrales. Agüero met with Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Christian Paradis, and Minister of State Yelich. Among other things, they discussed the preoccupying issue of unaccompanied child migration from the Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) to North America.
Most recently, in early March 2015 during the annual convention in Toronto of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), Minister of State Yelich raised the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with Honduran Finance Minister Wilfredo Cerrato, stressing the importance of protecting human rights when promoting mining investments and overall private sector development in the country. This also addresses Recommendation 12.
At the officials’ level, Canada’s Ambassador to Honduras has also raised Canada’s human rights concerns on many occasions to the ministers and senior officials in the Secretariats of both Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, as well as with the Attorney General, about preoccupying murder cases, including Honduran lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera and his brother in 2012, and prosecutors Marlene Banegas and Olga Eufragio in 2014. Following Mr. Trejo’s murder, Canadian officials at the UNHRC in Geneva met their Honduran counterparts to urge the Honduran government to undertake a complete, thorough and transparent investigation into his death, including through the office of the Honduran Attorney General. This addresses Recommendations 1 and 3.
Canada’s Ambassador to Honduras has also reiterated to Honduran government security and defense officials Canada’s concerns regarding the creation of the military police in 2013, and the importance of strengthening and reforming the Honduran police. In order to help coordinate the work of the military and police forces, the Honduran government has created a special unit dedicated to unifying the efforts of all forces in the country. Honduran authorities have shared with Canada their plan to substantially increase the number of police officers in the coming year and to train them to combat crime, violence and narcotrafficking, and the Government of Canada will track these efforts going forward. This addresses Recommendation 8.
In regards to strengthening the justice sector, in addition to Canada’s security programming in that area (see Part IV International and Security Assistance – Recommendation 11), Canadian officials have held meetings with the Office of the Attorney General in Honduras to express concerns regarding the high level of impunity in the country and to explore ways to increase the number of cases being prosecuted, including cases involving human rights defenders. This addresses Recommendations 1, 7 and 9.
Canada regularly conveys to the Honduran government the importance of engaging with human rights activists and NGOs. Canadian officials have met with the Honduran National Commission for Human Rights (CONADEH) to underline the value of involving civil society in the development of human rights legislation and other initiatives, particularly in the consultative process leading to the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists and Judiciary Representatives, which the Honduran Congress approved in April 2015. Other themes have also been discussed with CONADEH, such as irregular migration, women and children’s rights, education, health and gender equality. This addresses Recommendations 4 and 6.
The Way Forward: Canadian Ministers and officials will take every opportunity to advocate with the Government of Honduras for improved human rights generally, and with regards to specific cases including those identified in the Subcommittee’s recommendations. In each instance, the Government of Canada will evaluate the best approach and use all available resources in support of a positive outcome.
The Government also raises its concerns about human rights in Honduras at the multilateral level, specifically during the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). During Honduras’ first UPR in 2010, Canada put forward five recommendations, which were all accepted by Honduras. These included taking necessary measures to: guarantee freedom of the press, expression and the right to peaceful assembly; ensure the protection of human rights defenders, including by the implementation of precautionary measures requested by international human rights bodies; prevent, combat and punish perpetrators of violence against women and children, and hold a campaign on violence against women; better investigate and sanction those responsible for violations of human rights; and improve investigative capacity to solve the cases of murdered women, journalists and human rights defenders. In response to the 2010 UPR, the Honduran Congress passed a new law that protects human rights defenders, journalists and judiciary representatives in April 2015. Moreover, in January 2015, the Honduran government launched a new investigative unit of 97 judiciary investigators to work on the more complicated cases in the country, and announced the training of new police officers to conduct investigations, aiming at reducing the impunity rate on a short term basis. This addresses Recommendations 1 and 9.
On May 8, 2015, Honduras’ human rights performance was reviewed at the 22nd session of the UPR. In its intervention, Canada encouraged the Honduran government to continue its efforts to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and justice sector officials. Canada also encouraged Honduras to reduce overcrowding in prisons and juvenile detention centers by respecting their maximum occupancy rates and by implementing crime prevention and rehabilitation programs in communities. Canada also recommended that Honduras:
Strengthen and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary by enforcing the constitutional process for electing judges of the Supreme Court, adopting safeguard measures to prevent irregular dismissals and appointments, and adopting additional anti-corruption measures.
Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
Defend children’s rights by ensuring that the Directorate of Childhood, Adolescent and Family (DINAF) has the appropriate legislative framework and financial resources to meet its mandate, and by implementing policies and programmes to protect children, adolescents and returned child migrants.
Increase the number of law enforcement officials, judges and prosecutors receiving training specific to human rights and minority groups.
Canada will continue to monitor the implementation of these and other recommendations made to the Government of Honduras by the UNHRC following this round of UPR.
The decision taken by President Hernández last January to invite the United Nations (UN) to open an Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) provides a new potential partner for the improvement of human rights in Honduras. The new OHCHR representative in Honduras, who will open the office in the second half of this year, will work with the Government of Honduras to monitor and publicly report on the human rights situation, build state institutional and civil society capacity through technical assistance and capacity building, and conduct public advocacy on human rights with a view to mainstreaming human rights within the UN system operating in Honduras.
The Way Forward: The Government of Canada will use all multilateral mechanisms available to encourage and help the Government of Honduras defend the rights of its citizens, eliminate impunity, and protect the vulnerable from human rights abuses. Canada will explore the possibility of providing support to the new OHCHR in the near-term.
Interventions through the G16 Group of Donor Countries
Canada is active in expressing concerns over the human rights situation through the G16, a donor coordination group in Honduras. Through the G16, Canada works proactively with the Government of Honduras, and civil society organizations to raise concerns with the Honduran government and to address the main challenges in the country, including democratic governance and security. Canada also plays a leadership role at the G16 donor group on gender equality, working to remove barriers to gender equality and advancing women’s rights by promoting an open dialogue with civil society and government and ensuring that these issues are raised at the highest level of the G16 donor coordination group. Canada is advocating for the ratification by Honduras of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This protocol establishes a mechanism to receive and consider complaints related to the violations of the rights protected under the CEDAW. This addresses Recommendation 10.
The Way Forward:The Government of Canada will continue to work with other donor countries through the G16 to express its human rights concerns to the Government of Honduras, provide advice, and advocate for gender equality and improved women’s rights in the country.
Part (II) Diplomatic Support to Human Rights Defenders Under Threat
The Subcommittee makes one recommendation that falls within the theme of diplomatic support to human rights defenders that are under threat:
Recommendation 2 – That the Government of Canada provide both public and private diplomatic support, as appropriate, to individual human rights defenders under threat in Honduras.
The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation. In recent years, Canadian Ministers and officials have held regular meetings with international organizations, like-minded countries, NGOs, and Honduran government representatives to discuss the need for protection for human right defenders, journalists, judiciary representatives and vulnerable groups, such as children and youth, women, indigenous and afro-descendant populations, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Canada regularly meets with representatives of international and regional organizations in Honduras such as the United Nations, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), OHCHR, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), OAS, and European Union (EU). Canada also regularly meets with NGO representatives and other actors, such as Casa Alianza (Alliance House), COFADEH, the Promotion and Investigation Center for Human Rights (CIPRODEH), the Association for a Fairer Society (ASM), the Committee for Freedom of Speech (C-Libre), the Honduran Lesbian Network (CATRACHAS), the Violence Observatory of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), and journalists. In these meetings, human rights issues and particular cases of human rights abuses are discussed, and responses of the Honduran government are analyzed.
On the ground, Canada maintains close and regular contact with civil society organizations, local governments and the private sector to help gain a balanced view of the human rights situation in the country, including challenges faced by vulnerable groups. Canada is also present in Honduras through development and security programs and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), which seeks to support democracy, security and human rights through small-scale, short-term initiatives implemented by local non-profit organizations. Over the last three years, Canada has supported local NGOs in Honduras with a total contribution of CAD $252,634 through the implementation of 11 projects.
The Government follows with interest the Honduran government’s new Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists and Judiciary Representatives, which was approved on April 20, 2015 by the Honduran Congress. Canada had advocated with the Government of Honduras in support of this law and has raised concerns with authorities about delays in its approval. The law allows human rights defenders, journalists and judiciary representatives to request protection or preventative measures if they deem that their safety, or that of their family, is at risk. Depending on the threat assessment made by the new National Protection Committee created under this law, individuals will be entitled to protective measures at home and at their work place. In the most serious situations, these measures could include relocation or an immediate evacuation from Honduras. Canada will closely monitor the implementation of the new legislation, including whether it is generating the desired positive change for those in need of protection.
The Way Forward: The Government of Canada will continue to provide diplomatic support to individual human rights defenders under threat in Honduras. This will be done by raising their particular cases with international organizations, NGOs, and the Honduran government, and continuing to advocate with the Government of Honduras for ratification and implementation of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists and Judiciary Representatives.
Part (III) Monitoring the Honduran government’s implementation of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) precautionary measures
The Subcommittee made one recommendation related to IACHR precautionary measures:
Recommendation 5 – That the Government of Canada continue to monitor the effectiveness of the Government of Honduras’ implementation of precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in respect of human rights defenders, journalists, justice sector workers and other peaceful activists – including, in particular, members of the COFADEH.
Canada fully endorses the use of precautionary measures by the IACHR as a necessary tool to ensure that a petitioner’s rights are not irreversibly harmed pending consideration of a petition. Canadian officials will continue to monitor the implementation of the measures by the Government of Honduras.
While the Government of Honduras has positively received and accepted the IACHR recommendations for the implementation of precautionary measures, its ability to respond to all prescribed measures is limited by lack of resources. Canada is well aware of the particular case of COFADEH and Canadian officials in Tegucigalpa have met regularly with its representatives. This also addresses Recommendation 4.
The Way Forward: Canada agrees with the recommendation by the Subcommittee and will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the Government of Honduras’ implementation of precautionary measures ordered by the IACHR. Canadian officials will continue to raise COFADEH in its interactions with the Honduran government and senior officials, consistent with Canada's enduring support for the protection of human rights defenders.
Part (IV) Continuing development assistance and security programming that improves citizen security and respect for human rights
The Subcommittee makes one recommendation that falls within the theme of Canadian international and security assistance:
Recommendation 11 – That, through its international assistance to Honduras, the Government of Canada continue to support programming which aims to improve respect for civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, as well as strengthening the justice sector in the country.
The Government agrees with this recommendation, and with the Subcommittee’s assessment that a holistic approach to improving human rights protection in Honduras is required. Through various levels of engagement, and through short- and long-term initiatives, Canada works with the Government of Honduras, civil society and the private sector to help address the country’s security, human rights, and development challenges. This is conducted as well with multilateral and regional institutions, and with local and Canadian organizations on the ground. Canada's assistance delivered through Canadian partners has financed a number of initiatives in Honduras that combat impunity and support gender equality, human rights, labour rights and justice sector reform.
Honduras is a country of focus for Canada’s development assistance, receiving over $190M in official development assistance from fiscal year 2009-2010 to fiscal year 2013-2014. Since 2009, Canada’s bilateral development program has targeted the poor by improving food security and nutrition, increasing employment opportunities and family incomes and reducing social inequalities through investments in maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) and education. Canada’s investments in food security in the Dry Corridor, one of the poorest regions of Honduras, has supported more than 27,000 producers to improve their productivity and readiness to integrate into local and regional value chains. More than 22,000 households, living in municipalities where Canada works, saw their incomes increase to $2.60/day, more than doubling their income of $1.25/day.
DFATD officials are currently considering options to ensure development programming continues to address the root causes of insecurity and poverty, while strengthening protection and justice systems and increasing the capacity of national and municipal institutions to respond to citizens’ needs and priorities. Opportunities to increase respect for human rights and improve governance and security through more accountable institutions, strengthened policy frameworks and improved economic and civil participation of youth, women and marginalized groups in Honduran society are being assessed. Any new programming will be implemented using existing resources.
Canada has initiated discussions with the Government of Honduras aimed at establishing a Mutual Accountability Framework for Development Cooperation. This Framework would identify, in part, clear commitments by the Governments of Honduras and Canada to support strengthened governance and to further increase transparency, sound management and accountability for development results.
Canada is advancing human rights in its health programming in Honduras. Through its partnership with the United Nations Population Fund and the UNICEF, Canada is facilitating access to counselling services for children and youth aimed at preventing gender-based violence, improving adolescent health and well-being and raising awareness of their rights as children and youth. This initiative has benefitted over 130,000 young Hondurans. The Government will also be working with the Ministry of Health to strengthen its capacity to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated health information to develop effective public policy related to MNCH and will continue to advance gender equality results in projects. This includes activities related to the engagement of girls, boys, women and men in addressing issues related to gender stereotypes, gender-based violence and human rights violations.
Following the announcement made by Prime Minister Harper at the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10, 2015, the Government launched a $35M call for proposals for the Promotion of Rural Economic Development in the Dry Corridor of Honduras, aimed at building the resilience of local farmers and entrepreneurs in the drought-prone southern region of Honduras known as the Dry Corridor. The initiatives selected under this call for proposals will help create partnerships with civil society and the private sector to increase the economic opportunities and well-being of small-scale producers and entrepreneurs, with a focus on women, youth and marginalized groups, in one of the poorest regions in Honduras. This initiative will aim at providing employment for youth as an alternative to their engagement in illicit activities and irregular migration.
Canada also contributes to improving human rights in Honduras by leveraging Canadian expertise, funding, and networks through projects with civil society organizations. These projects work to strengthen economic, social, civil and political rights, often through the interventions of Canadian volunteer professionals. Some partners are specifically focused on improving governance, such as Lawyers Without Borders, which works to improve the rights of women, children, and vulnerable groups by strengthening national legal frameworks, and Equitas, which offers training for human rights educators. Most partners address economic and social rights, such as Canadian Rotarians who help high-risk youth attend school, or the Trade Facilitation Office Canada and their implementating partners (in Honduras and Guatemala), who work through an innovative partnership with Tim Horton’s Coffee to help coffee farming become a more viable and sustainable livelihood for poor communities.
Canada is also supporting human rights defenders through CFLI. Over the last three years, projects have focused on priority themes for the Government, including: training for human rights promoters and defenders; activities aimed at empowering women, especially in the fulfilment of their rights and the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, and; empowering and protecting other vulnerable populations, such as youth, including youth involved in irregular migration, indigenous populations and LGBT populations.
For example, through the Casa Alianza, the CFLI addressed the growing phenomenon of unaccompanied child migration by working with children returned to Honduras after attempting to emigrate north. Caza Alianza responded to the children’s physical and emotional needs to help them successfully re-integrate into society, and provided training to staff on violence prevention and care of victims.
Another project, linked to the “Women for Safer Cities” initiative, was implemented by the Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de las Víctimas de Tortura y sus Familiares (CPTRT – Center for Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and their Family). This initiative has trained women and police officers on issues related to the protection and promotion of human rights, especially violence against women and sexual violence prevention.
A project with the Consejo Indígena Lenca Comunal de Yance (CILCOYA – Indigenous Lenca Community Council of Yance) provided training to almost 1,000 Lencan indigenous community leaders on a variety of issues related to indigenous rights, providing them with greater capacities in the defence of their rights.
A project implemented by the LGBT organization FOROSIDA (AIDS Forum) made possible a public campaign against discrimination which took place in Honduras’ two main cities. FOROSIDA also provided training on human and LGBT rights, gender issues and violence.
On the security front, Canada has been active in Central America since 2008, having committed over $70M to improving security and reducing violence. Canada has been working with like-minded countries to make a constant evaluation of the security situation and to concentrate efforts where the needs are greatest, while avoiding duplication of efforts among donors. More specifically, Canada provides security and democracy funding to Honduras through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP), and the Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF). Between 2009-10 and 2014-15, approximately $4.5M was dedicated to Honduras through these programs for projects focused on justice and security sector reform, illicit drugs, rule of law and human rights, conflict management and prevention, and protection of vulnerable groups.
At the 2015 Summit of the Americas, Prime Minister Harper announced additional programming that will build on the gains that have already been made. The announcements included:
Up to $1.125M for a project in FY 2015-16 funded by the GPSF and implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) that aims to reduce crime in three northern Honduran communities by replicating an existing, successful municipal action plan, “Secure City.” This project will help municipal staff and organized civil society collect, analyze and use crime data, employ advocacy, support public-private partnerships, support crime mapping and boost neighbourhood participation.
Strengthening Anti-Crime Capacity on the island of Roatan, a $283,825 judicial sector reform project to be implemented by the B.C.-based Justice Education Society (JES). JES will train police, prosecutors and judges in new investigative methods, including crime scene examination, major case management, and oral trial techniques. This project will improve the judicial process and proceedings on Roatan and the Bay Islands, which are seeing an increase in crime in recent years, and which attract roughly 60,000 Canadian tourists annually. This project could, in turn, contribute to a decrease in the extremely high impunity rate in Honduras.
Honduras will benefit from an $839,600 regional project over two years implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project, aimed at strengthening Regional Coordination and Capacity Building for Border Security in Central America, will train authorities at vulnerable border crossings to identify and disrupt human trafficking networks, including child migrants, through the rapid sharing of information between countries.
The Way Forward: In keeping with a central goal of its Strategy for Engagement in the Americas - to address insecurity and advance freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law through capacity building - the Government of Canada will continue to support development, security, and other programming which aims to improve respect for human rights in Honduras. Ongoing programming will take into account the recommendations of the Subcommittee.
Part (V) Trade and Corporate Social Responsibility
The Subcommittee makes one recommendation in relation to trade and CSR:
Recommendation 12 – That the Government of Canada continue to reiterate its expectation that Canadian companies operating in Honduras will promote Canadian values, operate with the highest ethical standards, respect for human rights and all applicable laws, and meet or exceed widely-recognized international standards for responsible business conduct such as the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. As an adhering country to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, and through its enhanced CSR Strategy announced in November 2014, the Government of Canada expects that Canadian companies respect all applicable laws and international standards, operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. For example, Gildan Active Wear has a high level of community engagement and adheres to Canada’s CSR standards with various CSR projects that benefit its employees and the community in which it is located.
As way of background, Canada and Honduras have a free trade agreement in place, the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras (CHFTA), which covers goods, services, investment and other areas, as well as parallel agreements on labour cooperation and the environment. The CHFTA entered into force on October 1, 2014. Canada views increased engagement through trade and commercial-economic ties as an important way to support positive change and growth in Honduras. The CHFTA demonstrates this commitment by creating strong bilateral provisions to ensure market access for manufacturers, service providers and investors.
Canada and Honduras have a healthy and growing trade and investment relationship. Two-way merchandise trade for 2014 totalled $289.6M, a 4% increase over 2013. Imports from Honduras increased 4.1% over 2013 to reach $244.6M, and exports from Canada have reached $45.1M, a 3.1% increase from 2013.
On the investment side, the Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua has established a Canadian Business Advisory Council in Honduras made up of key members of the Canadian investor community, as a way of sharing information and facilitating dialogue with the host government. This Business Council also allows for open dialogue and information sharing on the expectation that Canadian companies operating in Honduras will promote and respect Canadian values, operate with the highest ethical standards, and respect human rights and all applicable laws.
Canada provided assistance to the Government of Honduras under the Deployment for Democratic Development Initiative to help Honduras bring its governance and regulatory capacity up to international norms and standards of best practices in this area, thus improving governance in the Honduran mining sector. The new Honduran mining law, known as Ley General de Mineria, came into force in April 2013. This legislation is a framework based on a number of key pillars, such as guaranteeing that a mine closure takes place in a sustainable way respecting environmental legislation, integrating citizen participation (including at the municipal level), providing a more certain system of taxation, ensuring the transition from the granting of exploration to exploitation permits, and ensuring transparency in the management of tax revenues derived from mining.
The Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua has done extensive CSR work in Honduras in recent years. In February 2014, in collaboration with the OAS and the local CSR association FUNDAHRSE, it delivered a two-day CSR training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in San Pedro Sula, which helped participants understand the benefits and opportunities that CSR can provide to SMEs, and assisted them in developing a CSR action plan for their firms. Participants also benefited from a six-month follow-up program with the OAS as they implemented their CSR action plans. Honduran government engagement at the seminar included the participation of the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Vice Minister of SMEs at the Ministry of Economic Development, both of whom highlighted the importance of CSR in Honduras.
In February 2015, the Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua developed a 5th Community Capacity Building Workshop, also in collaboration with FUNDAHRSE, aimed at communities that directly benefit from CSR practices and engage with organizations that are delivering CSR programming. Targeting local community stakeholders, it increased participants’ knowledge of CSR best practices and engagement. Through its involvement in the workshop, the Embassy ensured that Canadian CSR best practices were highlighted and that Canadian stakeholder engagement practices were explained and showcased by a Canadian subject-matter expert.
Negotiated in the context of the CHFTA, the Canada-Honduras Agreement on Labour Cooperation (CHALC) commits both countries to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization (ILO) 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Declaration, which aims to ensure that social progress goes hand in hand with economic development, covers: the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining; the abolition of child labour; the elimination of forced or compulsory labour; and the elimination of discrimination. To further protect the rights of workers, Canada and Honduras have also committed to provide acceptable protections for occupational health and safety, employment standards, such as hours of work and wages, and migrant workers. Honduras is one of several partner countries to benefit from technical assistance from Canada to improve the capacity of governments to address these labour issues. Canada fully supports Honduras’ ongoing efforts to bolster its enforcement of national laws and comply with ILO standards to avoid violations of workers’ rights.
Since 2009, Honduras has benefited from labour-related technical assistance programming totalling over $1.4M. The Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is currently funding the Dialogando II: Building Labour Law Compliance Capacities project (2014-16). This $700,000 (Honduras’ component is valued at $350,000) project is implemented by Costa Rica-based Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM). The project aims to improve the enforcement of labour standards in Honduras and Panama. This overarching objective is advanced through the provision of specialized training in the area of labour inspection, including on a selection of key issues such as child labour and women’s labour rights; the improvement and development of electronic tools, and the design and implementation of awareness-raising activities on priority issues.
The Minister of Labour, Kellie Leitch and her counterpart Minister Carlos Madero took part in the first meeting of the Ministerial Council under the CHALC on October 13, 2014, on the margins of the ILO’s 18th American Regional Meeting in Lima, Peru. The meeting facilitated a discussion and exchange on next steps in the implementation of the CHALC, respective ministerial priorities and labour-related technical assistance programming. The Ministers agreed on the content of the 2014-2016 Plan of Action for Cooperative Labour Activities.
Labour concerns persist in Honduras. Canada is monitoring the labour situation and engaging the country constructively through dialogue and technical assistance to address these concerns.
The Way Forward: The Government of Canada will continue to expect that Canadian companies operating in Honduras respect all applicable laws and international standards and conduct their activities in a responsible manner that respects human rights. The Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua will build on the important CSR work already undertaken to educate and sensitize companies, and assist them to meet this goal. Under the umbrella of the CHALC, Canada’s Labour Program will also continue to work with the Honduran government to ensure that labour rights are respected, and to provide technical assistance.