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UN Human Rights Treaties

Travaux Préparatoires


Technical cooperation with the Government of Paraguay in the sphere of human rights.

UN Document Symbol E/CN.4/1994/78/Add.1
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Other
Session 50th
Type Document

21 p.

Subjects Democratization, Women's Status, Child Welfare, Amerindians, Persons with Disabilities

Extracted Text

15 November 1993
Original: SPANISH
Fiftieth session
Item 19 of the provisional agenda
Technical cooperation with the Government of Paraguay in the
sphere of human rights
Paragraphs Page
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 - 9 2
A. Democratic transition and human rights . . . . . . 10 - 17 3
B. Human development and external cooperation . . . . 18 - 25 4
FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 6
EXECUTION OF THE PROJECT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 - 53 7
A. Legal reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 - 33 7
B. Institutional reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 - 39 8
C. Constitutional reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 - 46 10
D. Promotion of, and training in, human rights . . . . 47 - 53 11
V. CONCLUSIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 - 98 18
VI. RECOMMENDATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 - 103 19
GE.93-85570 (E)
page 2
1. Immediately after the events that culminated in the overthrow of
General Stroessner, the new constitutional authorities of Paraguay, elected in
May 1989, requested United Nations technical assistance in various areas of
cooperation, human rights being one of the first in which such assistance was
provided. In June and July 1989, the first consultations were held and in
April 1990 the Government of Paraguay, the Centre for Human Rights and the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) concluded a first technical
cooperation agreement in the field of human rights (PAR/90/003/01/99). Its
primary objectives were: (a) to identify assistance and cooperation needs
in this field; (b) to determine areas of cooperation; and (c) to define
procedures for its execution. In order to carry out the task of evaluation,
consultations between the signatories to the agreement and the formulation of
proposals, the Centre for Human Rights offered the assistance of the expert
who is writing this report.
2. The most outstanding results of this preliminary phase of collaboration,
which took place during just a few months in 1990, included the establishment
of the Directorate-General for Human Rights within the Ministry of Justice and
Labour, the training of personnel to work in the Directorate and, above all,
the formulation of a cooperation project (CHR/ADV.SERV./1991), which expanded
the previous project and served as a framework for all the various activities
that took place between 15 August 1991 and 15 August 1993, the date on which
it came to an end.
3. As a result of the favourable conditions prevailing in Paraguay,
which enabled all the activities originally proposed to be carried out, in
August 1993 agreement was reached on the further expansion of the project by
means of an additional contribution by the Centre for Human Rights to the
organization of further action, to take place from 15 to 19 November 1993,
relating to the indigenous populations, with the participation of foreign and
Paraguayan experts.
4. The purpose of this report is not so much to give a detailed description
of each of the activities undertaken and the results achieved on a
sector-by-sector basis as to describe the experience of cooperation with
Paraguay, through its most outstanding and original features, namely:
(a) The indissoluble link between democracy and human rights as the
cornerstone of the process of transition to democracy which is under way in
this country. On this basis, what is aimed at is to assess the impact of
cooperation in the field of human rights, with regard to the unfolding of the
transition process and the permanent consolidation of the democratic system;
(b) The incorporation of the concept of human development as a matrix
and vector for the cooperation programmes. For this reason, the principal
purposes of this report include, firstly, emphasizing the complementarity
which exists between this approach and that outlined under (a) above, and
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secondly, demonstrating clearly the positive effect on the overall situation
in Paraguay of the inclusion of the areas of human priority among the goals
and objectives of external cooperation.
5. In the final analysis, what we are trying to demonstrate by means of this
experience and through the use of both analytical parameters is precisely the
link which exists between human rights, democracy and human development.
Structure of the report
6. For the reasons mentioned above, the present report begins with a
description of the context in which technical cooperation is taking place:
firstly, the process of political transition currently under way in Paraguay;
and secondly, the causes of the change of approach which occurred in the area
of cooperation. This in turn explains why the parameters used to measure
results are (a) the progress achieved in the field of human rights, and
(b) the attainment of the objectives and goals of human development.
Chapter I of this report deals specifically with these two questions.
7. Chapter II reviews the central objectives of the cooperation project,
while chapter III describes the activities undertaken and the results achieved
in the execution of the project.
8. Chapter IV outlines the main activities in support of the most vulnerable
groups in society and describes the support given to the work of the
non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
9. The conclusions refer to the most valuable aspects of the cooperation
experience and emphasize those which, because of their relevance or
originality, may serve as an example for other situations. And lastly,
among the recommendations made, we advise maintaining and even increasing
cooperation in the field of human rights.
A. Democratic transition and human rights
10. As is well known, Paraguay is a country which during the past
three decades experienced one of the longest and harshest dictatorships
in Latin America. During General Stroessner’s military regime, which
lasted 34 years, all public and private freedoms were severely curbed.
Almost throughout this period, the state of siege remained in force. As a
result of the prevailing political, social and economic conditions, thousands
upon thousands of persons were obliged to leave their homes and emigrate to
other lands in search of well-being or refuge.
11. The international community’s concern about this situation of flagrant
and systematic violations of human rights was clearly reflected in Paraguay’s
treatment at the hands of the various international human rights supervisory
bodies, in particular the Commission on Human Rights, in which Paraguay was
under examination for almost two decades, and the Sub-Commission on Prevention
of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (confidential procedure).
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12. Nevertheless, during the past four years the situation in Paraguay
has undergone fundamental changes. In the night of 2/3 February 1989,
General Stroessner, at that time the oldest dictator in the whole continent,
was overthrown and the new de facto authorities, before the country and
the international community, made a commitment to respect human rights
and restore the democratic system of government. Shortly afterwards,
General Andrés Rodríguez was elected constitutional President in the first
free and democratic elections in the whole history of Paraguay.
13. In parallel with these events, the rule of law was restored and political
pluralism was installed in national life. All exiles were able to return to
Paraguay and many of them now occupy important posts in the various spheres of
the Government and Parliament.
14. In accordance with the desire of the majority of the population to live
in a State governed by the rule of law, the Constitution was comprehensively
reformed and the main international human rights instruments were ratified.
15. Over and above the legal and political significance of these acts, they
undoubtedly reflect the unequivocal will of the Government, and of society as
a whole, to acknowledge that they are parties to the international community
and thus to end Paraguay’s traditional isolation.
16. In addition, the legal time-limits set for the holding of elections have
been scrupulously adhered to. In the first elections held for the office of
Mayor of Asunción, the capital, the winner was Mr. Filizola, a member of
the opposition. In August 1993, Mr. Juan Carlos Wasmosy, an engineer by
profession, took office as the new constitutional President of Paraguay; he
had emerged triumphant from the general election of 9 May 1993, in which the
political opposition forces won a majority in Congress. This was undoubtedly
a milestone in Paraguayan history since it was the first time a constitutional
President had handed over power to another President freely elected by the
17. During this period, human rights were not only an essential pillar of the
transition in the domestic sphere, but also played a decisive part in the
recovery of external credibility; they thus became one of the main factors
which contributed to Paraguay’s re-entry into the international community.
B. Human development and external cooperation
18. Traditionally, the concept of development has had an eminently economic
connotation. It defined a country’s growth and was regularly expressed in
figures, percentages or mathematical formulas. Thus, for many years, both
politicians, and economists and development planners used average per capita
income as an indicator of a country’s progress or decline. Consequently, many
national development activities centred exclusively on economic growth,
frequently ignoring the human dimension of development and the positive impact
of social investment on the acceleration of such growth.
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19. In recent years, however, this extremely "economic" approach, which
somewhat schematically identifies "economic growth" with "development",
has begun to be revised and an extremely interesting debate has begun in
various spheres of international life. Thus, for example, the most recent
UNDP reports on human development reflect this salutary change. In these
reports, economic growth is added to other basic human indicators, such as
life expectancy, adult illiteracy and infant mortality, so as to constitute
the overall concept of human development. What has in fact been done is to
incorporate new development evaluation parameters which are as reliable as the
previous parameters, but far more revealing of the real economic, social and
cultural progress of peoples.
20. This attempt at clarification stems from a fact which is as true as it is
verifiable: not all economic growth necessarily brings with it well-being for
the whole population. On the contrary, it happens with regrettable frequency,
that progress achieved in that indicator is not in practice reflected in equal
benefit for all sectors of society.
21. For these reasons, and in order to define the concept of human
development even more closely, growth must be viewed not only in quantitative
terms, but also in qualitative terms. Account must be taken not only of
economic expansion, but also of the equitable distribution of its results. In
addition, development must be "sustainable"; in other words, the satisfaction
of current needs must be effected through rational and appropriate use of
existing natural resources, without jeopardizing the supply or destiny of
future generations.
22. In line with the approach already adopted in the various specialized
human rights organizations, for UNDP the participation of the population in
decision-making is one of the essential ingredients or engines of development.
This statement implies, inter alia, that development must be the development
of people, by people and for people; in other words, development must be built
around people, and not people around development.
23. In short, the concept of human development could be said to be based on a
simple and fundamental conclusion: if the aim is to evaluate objectively a
country’s level of development, in addition to its economic growth, we must
examine the extent to which all its inhabitants have genuine access to the
effective exercise of their economic, social and cultural rights, participate
in political affairs and fully exercise freedom.
24. Briefly speaking, the merit of this approach is twofold because it
incorporates all human rights as an indissoluble component of development and
because, as we shall see in this report, it breaks down the traditional
barriers of international technical and economic cooperation by incorporating
the social aspect and the areas of human priority among its principal goals
and objectives.
25. The most tangible effect of the combination of these three elements -
democratic transition, human rights and human development - was (a) the
conspicuous increase in external cooperation, and (b) the rapid expansion and
diversification of such cooperation, which in a short time reached substantial
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segments of State administration and the activities of associations and NGOs,
even encompassing non-traditional areas or sectors such as human rights,
constitutional reform, ecological conservation, protection of the cultural
heritage of the indigenous populations, the problems of rural women, children,
disabled persons and other vulnerable sectors of society.
26. The main objectives of the human rights project include:
(a) Legal reform
(i) Promoting the ratification of the various international
instruments for the protection of human rights;
(ii) Providing technical assistance to ensure that domestic
legislation is properly aligned with the international
(b) Institutional reform
Providing advice on the establishment and operation of a
Directorate-General for Human Rights within the Ministry of Justice
and Labour, as a focal point for governmental activities in this
field; providing the basic infrastructure necessary for its
operation; and promoting similar reforms in other areas of the
(c) Constitutional reform
Cooperating in the reform of the national Constitution by promoting
the incorporation of provisions to guarantee adequate protection of
human rights and fundamental freedoms.
(d) Promoting knowledge of human rights and human rights teaching and
training by means of training courses, fellowships, seminars and
other forms of publicity.
(e) Activities in support of the various vulnerable social groups:
women, children, disabled persons, indigenous populations, etc.
(f) Supporting and stimulating the contribution of the non-governmental
human rights organizations.
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A. Legal reform
1. International treaties recently ratified by Paraguay
27. Under the Stroessner regime, which lasted from 1954 to 1989, Paraguay’s
international isolation was not only political but also legal, since the
Government had systematically refused to sign almost all the international
instruments for the protection of human rights that had become international
law since the 1970s.
28. From the very beginning of the democratization process in February 1989,
however, the new authorities demonstrated their desire to rejoin the
international community by ratifying most of the international agreements for
the protection of human rights.
29. Consequently, after only four years of democracy, Paraguay has ratified
the following treaties:
(i) The American Convention on Human Rights or Pact of San José,
Costa Rica. Symbolically, the Act ratifying the Convention bears
the number "1" and the ratification took place on 14 July 1989. At
the end of 1992, the Executive endorsed Parliament’s request and
recognized the competence of the Inter-American Court of Human
(ii) The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Inter-American Convention
to Prevent and Punish Torture were ratified on 23 January 1990 and
9 March 1990 respectively;
(iii) The Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed on
4 April 1990 and ratified the following year on 25 September 1991;
(iv) In 1992, Paraguay acceded to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights;
(v) On 19 July 1993, ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and
Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries was ratified;
(vi) Significant advances have also been made in the field of
international humanitarian law. On 30 November 1990, for example,
Paraguay acceded to Additional Protocols I and II of 1977 to the
Geneva Conventions of 1949, the first of which relates to the
protection of victims of international armed conflicts and the
second to the protection of victims of non-international armed
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(vii) Important steps have been taken with regard to asylum and refugees.
The Executive lifted the "geographical reservation" on the
1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
2. Alignment of domestic law with international law
30. With the enormous impact produced by the above-mentioned measures on the
national order, the arduous task of aligning domestic law with international
law naturally become one of the main and immediate priorities of cooperation.
31. Parliament’s decision to repeal Acts Nos. 209 and 294, used perversely by
the former regime to persecute opponents, stifle the exercise of civil
liberties and commit all types of human rights violations, was the first major
step in this area.
32. However, the comprehensive reform of a national legal system involves not
only dismantling the arsenal of existing repressive laws, but replacing them
with others which adequately safeguard the basic rights of every individual.
In this regard, the technical assistance provided took account of a number of
critical aspects of the Paraguayan situation, namely, the obsolescence of most
of the existing criminal legislation, the large number of unconvicted
prisoners and the notorious slowness of the judicial system caused by a
non-transparent and completely inefficient and torpid criminal procedure.
33. In this respect, a commendable contribution was made by another decisive
force for cooperation in Paraguay, namely, the Crime Prevention and Criminal
Justice Branch of the United Nations, based in Vienna. Working closely with
the local office of UNDP and the Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, the Branch
conducted a number of studies and made a series of recommendations for
updating criminal legislation in the form of a preliminary draft penal code.
Along the same lines, a set of proposed reforms of criminal procedure is
intended to rectify the glaring deficiencies in existing legislation, which is
based on an extremely slow and inefficient written and inquisitorial
procedure. Among the proposed innovations agreed to by the authorities are
the introduction of oral and public proceedings and a much shorter and more
transparent criminal procedure.
B. Institutional reform
1. Establishment of the Directorate-General for Human Rights
34. The establishment of an office to promote and coordinate all State
activities in the field of human rights was, from the outset, one of the
cornerstones of the cooperation project. In accordance with the guidelines
agreed with the United Nations, the Executive approved Decree No. 8,009
of 24 December 1990 establishing the Directorate-General for Human Rights as
a department of the Ministry of Justice and Labour. The area of competence
and functions of this department are wide-ranging, covering the whole field of
promotion, dissemination and protection of human rights. Its main functions
(a) Promoting the dissemination of human rights as an effective means
of guaranteeing their observance and consolidating the democratic system;
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(b) Cooperating with relevant institutions to promote the teaching
of human rights at the primary, secondary and university levels, and in
non-formal education; major activities include the first "children’s
elections" held in October 1992 in 14 departments, including Asunción. The
main purpose of these elections was to familiarize children, parents and
teachers with the content of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Children were asked to select 4 of the 15 rights embodied in the Convention
which they regarded as most important, with pupils from the fourth to
sixth grades being encouraged to vote. In addition to the election, the
training courses which preceded it, the teaching materials distributed and
the publicity given by the various media contributed largely to the
attainment of the desired objective. Apart from the impact on those
directly involved and on public opinion in general, training was given
to 53 primary school inspectors, 1,753 principals of public and private
schools, and 7,520 primary-school teachers. In conjunction with the Ministry
of Education and Worship, basic training courses for teachers are being
conducted, a start has been made on a practical manual for the teaching of
human rights at primary and secondary levels, and work is in progress with the
Curriculum Department on curriculum revision and the introduction of the
subject at the various levels of education;
(c) Another major task of the Directorate-General is to promote the
alignment of domestic legislation with international agreements or treaties,
as referred to above. Authority to receive complaints of alleged violations
of human rights has been exercised in practice through the Attorney General;
(d) One area in which the Directorate-General’s action has been
highly productive has been in providing information to the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to enable it to reply to requests from the various
international human rights agencies. In this respect, the Directorate has
helped with the preparation of the reports submitted by Paraguay in accordance
with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and
both international covenants on human rights;
(e) Another of the Directorate’s functions is to act as a focal point
for all documentation on human rights. The material contributed by the
United Nations and OAS is extremely copious and may be consulted by the public
at the offices of the Directorate, which has set up a special unit for this
35. Furthermore, in accordance with the terms of the cooperation project, the
United Nations has provided the Directorate with its basic operational
equipment: fax equipment, computers, etc. The project consultant has also
regularly acted as adviser to the Directorate.
2. Cooperation with the Attorney General and other State entities
36. With the growing involvement of the Public Prosecutor’s Department in the
protection of human rights in Paraguay, as in most Latin American countries,
many cooperation activities were carried out in conjunction with the Attorney
General’s Office, with a view to providing training for its officials.
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37. The Supreme Court is itself making a vigorous effort in the area of
computerization and data processing on the basis of the recommendations put
forward by the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch in Vienna.
38. Reform of the prison system has been the subject of numerous reports
and recommendations by international experts and consultants. In every
instance, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile
Justice (Beijing Rules) have been taken as a reference point.
39. To sum up, judicial reform as proposed under the cooperation project has
been far-reaching and comprehensive, and also covers the appointment of
judges, a new Code of Organization of the Judiciary and the formation of the
Judicial Police and the School for the Judiciary.
C. Constitutional reform
40. Constitutional reform represented one of the most crucial aspects of
the transition, in that it involved the most radical legal and institutional
reform in the whole process. It reflects the desire and determination of the
Paraguayan people to do away with authoritarianism and to lay the physical
and ideological foundations for democracy, with the rule of law, political
pluralism and freedom of the individual as its fundamental values.
41. For these reasons, it is readily understandable why, from the outset,
the United Nations considered the promotion, encouragement and support of
constitutional reform to be one of the central objectives of cooperation.
In this regard, the most important and effective undertaking, in which
the United Nations played a decisive part, was the international
symposium on a comparison of constitutional reforms, held in Asunción
from 5 to 8 November 1991, on the eve of the general elections in which
the members of the Constituent General Assembly were elected.
42. The symposium’s main objective was to stimulate and encourage national
discussion and to provide future representatives and public opinion in general
with a frame of reference for comparison with other recent constitutional
reforms, particularly in Latin America, which might orient and enrich the
fertile national debate.
43. The statements of the various participants, who were constitutional
experts from Latin America and Spain, were combined in a single volume bearing
the title of the symposium, which proved highly useful during the six months
spent on the comprehensive reform of the Constitution.
44. As for the content of the new Constitution, an appropriate balance was
achieved between the various powers of the State and a modern conception of
justice, the judicial system and the Public Prosecutor’s Department, as an
entity independent of the Executive.
45. With regard to rights and guarantees, the provisions governing the state
of emergency and the various amparo and habeas corpus procedures are of
overriding importance. Apart from the provisions on the most vulnerable
social groups, which will be taken up later, those which embody the right to
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conscientious objection, the preservation of a decent environment and the
protection of what have been called the "diverse interests of the community"
also deserve praise. In view of Paraguay’s recent history, the provisions
embodying the right of asylum and prohibiting any form of exile or ostracism
are of particular significance.
46. Finally, with regard to the order of precedence of the constitutional
provisions, articles 137 and 142 are decisive. The first establishes the
precedence of international treaties and agreements over national legislation
and the second provides that international treaties on human rights may not be
denounced except in accordance with the procedures laid down for the amendment
of the Constitution.
D. Promotion of, and training in, human rights
47. The first event to take place in this connection was the seminar on
the implementation of international human rights instruments and the
administration of justice, organized jointly by the Centre for Human Rights,
UNDP and the Directorate-General for Human Rights. It was held in Asunción
from 18 to 20 July 1990, and the statements of speakers were published in a
single volume which bears the title of the seminar.
48. The purpose of the seminar was to promote understanding of the
implementation of international instruments in national law and, indirectly,
to encourage the ratification of those instruments to which Paraguay was not
yet a party. The widespread interest which the seminar aroused is clearly
evidenced by the very large attendance. Almost 100 persons, including
judges, civil servants, law-enforcement personnel, lawyers and members of
NGOs, attended regularly and the closing ceremony, which was addressed by the
President of Paraguay, General Andrés Rodríguez, the former President of
Argentina, Raúl Alfonsín, and the former President of Brazil, José Sarney, was
attended by over 500 persons.
49. In order to further the training of judges, lawyers, members of
the Public Prosecutor’s Department, security personnel, members of NGOs
and, in particular, persons likely to be involved in the shortly-to-be-created
Directorate-General for Human Rights, an in-depth training course in
human rights was held at the UNDP offices in Asunción from 21 October
to 2 November 1990.
50. With the same end in view - although in this case limited to State
officials - the first interdisciplinary course on human rights was held at
the headquarters of the Directorate-General for Human Rights from 30 September
to 4 October 1991. Emphasis was placed on the responsibility of the State and
its representatives for responding adequately and promptly to requests for
information and any others made by the various international human rights
51. In order to cover in depth the delicate question of the repatriation
of Paraguayan citizens who, in past decades, had been forced to leave the
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country, UNHCR, the Comité de Iglesias, the Directorate-General for Human
Rights and UNDP organized a seminar at the UNDP office on 18 and 19 July 1991
to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating
to the Status of Refugees.
52. With a view to improving the training of the various officials of the
Public Prosecutor’s Department, as well as judges, lawyers, police and
security personnel, members of NGOs working in prisons, etc., the Office of
the Attorney-General, the Directorate-General for Human Rights, UNDP and
the Centre for Human Rights organized an international seminar on the
administration of justice and criminal investigation and on measures to
strengthen their effectiveness and ensure proper observance of human rights.
The seminar was held at the premises of the Supreme Court from 10 to
20 June 1992. It was attended by distinguished Latin American and Spanish
jurists and, in addition to achieving its intended objectives, provided a
meeting-point and on opportunity for exchanging ideas between the various
bodies involved in all stages of criminal procedure. It became clear that
coordination among the various parties involved in criminal investigation is
a prerequisite for improving efficiency.
53. Finally, again in connection with training in human rights, the
United Nations offered five specialized fellowships enabling Paraguayan
citizens to study abroad, most of which were taken up at the Centre for Human
Rights in Geneva, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica,
the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the
International Training Centre for Teachers of Human Rights and Peace
(CIFEDHOP) in Geneva.
Women and children
54. The situation of women, particularly in rural areas, as well as that of
children, is particularly serious in Paraguay.
55. Over one third of Paraguay’s population of 4,123,000 is under 13 years of
age. In general it is estimated that some 60 per cent of children under five
years of age suffer from malnutrition. Infant mortality rates are extremely
high, ranging from 40 per 1,000 in the case of children under one year of age
to 62 per 1,000 in the case of those under five. As regards education, it is
estimated that some 40 per cent of children fail to complete their schooling
in rural areas.
56. The plight of women (quite apart from the persistence of certain
inherited cultural stereotypes, undoubtedly accentuated by the previous
authoritarian regime) is illustrated by the fact that maternal mortality
(380 per 100,000) is the second highest in Latin America, and means that one
out of every 200 pregnancies ends with the death of the mother; although
precise figures are lacking, it is estimated that the percentage is even
higher in rural areas.
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57. This situation, which is certainly a cause for concern, has not only
caught the attention of the authorities but has also mobilized all democratic
segments of society. And that concern is in turn clearly reflected in the new
article of the Constitution which, apart from proclaiming quality of rights
between men and women, states that it is the duty of the State, family and
society to ensure the harmonious and comprehensive development of children, as
well as the full enjoyment of their rights (arts. 48 and 50).
58. However, in order to translate these provisions into practice, the
country’s authorities have had to seek the cooperation of outside bodies with
a view to the formulation of policies and the implementation of programmes
intended to satisfy in a suitable manner the pressing needs of these two
segments of the population.
59. In this respect it should be made clear that, although both these
problems have always been borne in mind in connection with the various
activities carried out under the human rights project, it was through the
human resources development project that both the United Nations and the
Government channelled their main efforts in support of these groups. Over
US$ 12 million was mobilized for this programme, the Government being the main
contributor; the programme is designed to improve living conditions for the
most disadvantaged segments of society, namely, children and women in rural
60. The programme is intended, among other things, to:
(i) Benefit over 100,000 children of school age by providing
supplementary nutrition and health care (school breakfasts and
(ii) Encourage the establishment of community vegetable gardens;
(iii) Combat endemic goitre, which affects 60 per cent of schoolchildren,
through the distribution of iodized oil capsules;
(iv) With respect to the situation of women in rural areas, the
programme is designed to promote their training and greater
participation in matters affecting their day-to-day interests or
concerns, and particularly those connected with the family’s
livelihood and their self-esteem.
61. Another of the programme’s objectives is to facilitate women’s access to
information and particularly to promote an understanding of their rights and
obligations as citizens. It is intended, by enhancing their self-esteem, to
increase the participation of women in decision-taking and in the formulation
of requests for services, etc. Lastly, the programme was drawn up and will be
evaluated in the light of its impact not only on women but also on the family
62. One of the most important devices used in the programme as a means of
achieving its objectives has been the promotion of so-called "women’s
committees", since experience in other countries has shown that such bodies
offer the most suitable context for dialogue, exchanges of ideas and training.
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63. From the institutional standpoint, not only UNDP but also various
ministries are associated with the programme, although its implementation is
the responsibility of the Department of Public Welfare and Social Assistance.
64. Moreover, the programme is part of, and supplemented by, other projects
undertaken by the World Food Programme, UNICEF, which is implementing a child
survival project, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is
carrying out activities in support of women in rural areas, the International
Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), etc.
Indigenous peoples
65. As in most of the other Latin American countries, the indigenous peoples
of Paraguay have been victims of extensive discrimination, which has
increasingly brought about their marginalization and pauperization. Yet the
cultural wealth of such communities is enormous. In recent years, and in a
way paralleling the democratization of the country, Paraguayan society has
begun to show much more awareness of this problem, which affects over 100,000
persons comprising 17 native ethnic groups.
66. The improvement of the difficult situation of these peoples obviously
constitutes one of the ongoing concerns of the United Nations and one that is
clearly reflected in all its programmes or activities which, either directly
or indirectly, concern this sector. For example, the well-known Paraguayan
writer Augusto Roa Basto, a UNDP consultant, speaking at the International
Symposium on a Comparison of Constitutional Reforms, presented an impassioned
defence of the indigenous peoples of his country and addressed an appeal to
the legislators that they should recognize in the Constitution they were about
to draw up the multicultural and multi-ethnic nature of Paraguayan society.
Subsequently, when the Constituent Assembly had met, it was most encouraging
to note that the six articles of the new Constitution relating to indigenous
peoples were adopted unanimously.
67. For example, article 62, entitled "Indigenous peoples and ethnic groups",
states that "this Constitution recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples
and cultures prior to the establishment and formation of the Paraguayan
68. Furthermore, article 63, which concerns ethnic identity, recognizes and
"the right of indigenous peoples to maintain and develop their ethnic
identity in the areas where they live. They also have the right, without
let or hindrance, to their own political, social, economic, cultural and
religious structures, as well as voluntarily to submit to their customary
rules that regulate their communal life, providing that such structures
are not at variance with the fundamental rights embodied in this
Constitution. Customary indigenous law shall be taken into account in
legal disputes."
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69. Article 65 states that the indigenous peoples:
"have the right to communal ownership of land, the area and quality of
which shall be adequate for the maintenance and development of their
characteristic ways of life. This land, which shall be made available
by the State free of charge, shall not be subject to seizure, is
indivisible, non-transferable and imprescriptible, may not be used as
security in respect of contractual obligations or leased, and shall also
be exempt from taxation. They may not be displaced or resettled without
their express consent."
70. Article 65, moreover,
"guarantees the indigenous peoples the right to participate in the
economic, social, political and cultural life of the country in
accordance with their customary usages, the Constitution and national
71. Article 66 stipulates that:
"The State shall respect the special cultural characteristics of the
indigenous peoples, particularly in matters concerning formal education.
It shall, moreover, take steps to protect them against demographic
decline, the degradation of the areas where they live, environmental
pollution, economic exploitation and cultural alienation."
72. Lastly, article 67 states that "members of indigenous peoples shall be
exempt from social, civil or military services, and from legal public
73. A word must also be said about the seminar organized jointly by the
Paraguayan Indigenous Institute, the Directorate-General for Human Rights,
UNDP, the International Labour Organisation and the Chamber of Deputies with
a view to informing indigenous leaders of the scope and content of ILO
Convention No. 169 and studying possibilities of the ratification of this
Convention, which took place on 19 July 1993.
74. Although it is Paraguayan society as a whole that is experiencing the
serious consequences of the country’s growing ecological deterioration
(deforestation, gradual soil erosion, danger of extinction of certain wild
species due to illicit traffic in skins and furs, etc.), it is certainly the
indigenous peoples who are the main victims. With a view to increasing public
awareness of this problem, both within the country and abroad, and at the
same time protecting the priceless cultural heritage of the indigenous
peoples, a UNDP film crew whose films are widely distributed throughout the
world under the name AZIMUTH made a film in Paraguay entitled "Constitution
in a multi-ethnic country", which will be distributed this year, the
International Year for the World’s Indigenous People.
75. It should be added that this film crew has made two other films in
Paraguay: one on the progress made and the challenges being met in the field
of human rights, and the other on micro-enterprises. The latter highlights
the joint efforts being made by the Government, the United Nations and various
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private groups to make credit more easily available to the most disadvantaged
segments of the population (pedlars, small artisans, etc.) by promoting the
extension of credit facilities to small cooperatives or micro-enterprises.
Disabled persons
76. The factors that produce deficiencies or disability, in addition to
those that are common to many other Latin American countries, such as
poliomyelitis, leprosy, measles, German measles, tetanus, meningitis, Down’s
syndrome, alcoholism, etc., include, in the specific case of Paraguay, child
malnutrition and iodine deficiency which, during the first year of life,
predispose to deaf mutism and mental defects, and are among the main causes of
disability. The impact of these factors is in turn considerably enhanced by
deficient prenatal and perinatal conditions and illnesses during pregnancy.
77. Although no accurate statistics are available on the total percentage
of persons suffering from various types of physical, mental or sensory
deficiencies amounting to disability, it is estimated that over half a million
Paraguayans are affected. The various studies carried out reveal that the
largest number of persons suffering from disability live in rural areas, where
poor health conditions and the lack of suitable rehabilitation facilities
further aggravate their precarious situation.
78. The most telling measures taken by the Government during the transition
include the establishment of the Department of Public Welfare and Social
Assistance (DPWSA) and the allocation of considerable resources to finance its
activities in support of disabled persons.
79. As for foreign cooperation, the first important step was taken by the
Vienna Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs which, in
April 1991, asked its interregional advisers to prepare a report for the
Government of Paraguay. Later on, UNDP, in close cooperation with the Vienna
Centre, engaged an expert from the Generalitat de Cataluña (Spain) who,
together with a team from DPWSA, drew up a comprehensive action plan for
disabled persons.
80. This plan was used as a basis for the preparation of an ambitious
cooperation project whose implementation is to begin this year and which is to
be financed jointly by UNDP and DPWSA, additional contributions coming from
the Government of Spain and ILO.
81. Another noteworthy development in recent years has been the increasing
role played by NGOs headed by disabled persons and reflecting their personal
initiatives, such as the organization of the "workshops" for the development
of strategies, submission of projects, evaluation of programmes, etc. For
example, the proposal to include a specific article in the country’s new
Constitution - which subsequently became article 58 entitled "The rights of
persons in exceptional situations" - was a result of this kind of approach and
the exchanges between the parties concerned.
82. Lastly, in November 1992 the Centre for Human Rights, UNDP and DPWSA
provided financial support for the first Seminar on Disability, Partnership
and Participation in Community Development, held in Asunción under the
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auspices of the Directorate-General for Human Rights and organized by a group
of NGOs that are extremely active in matters of disability. In this case, as
well as in others, the guiding principle followed by the United Nations was to
make those directly concerned fully responsible for the organization and
conduct of the event. The objective is to get them to manage their own
affairs, enhance their self-esteem and above all draw attention to the
enormous potential of this segment of the population that has not always been
put to good use.
Support for the work of non-governmental organizations
83. Until quite recently, the international community was rather reluctant to
go along with the idea that the local offices that represented and coordinated
the United Nations system should have the power to deal with human rights
problems at the national level. The implication was that these problems were
too sensitive for Governments and could therefore undermine the confidence and
collaboration on which technical cooperation was based. For this reason,
contact with, and even support for, national NGOs concerned with the
protection of human rights was regarded as very risky.
84. Yet in Paraguay’s case all these fears proved groundless during the
transition process.
85. Quite apart from the various forms of support provided by the Centre for
Human Rights, UNDP and the Vienna Centre for the activities of national NGOs
and described above, the most striking feature throughout this process has
been the establishment of close contact and cooperation between those NGOs
and the local office of the United Nations. On this basis, it was
possible jointly to embark upon a large number of activities ranging from
the distribution of books, documents, posters and films dealing with human
rights in places or premises that were easily accessible to the public, to
the implementation of training projects with organizations that were well
established in key sectors of society and which had considerable experience in
the field of non-formal education.
86. The local office has also regularly associated itself with the activities
organized by the NGOs in celebration of 10 December of each year as Human
Rights Day.
The terror archives
87. The recent discovery of the archives of the political police of the
previous regime was an unusual event of major importance, since it revealed to
society an unvarnished picture of the diabolical nature of that regime.
88. Owing to the enormous amount of documents discovered and the importance
of their contents, the judicial authorities and the Public Prosecutor’s
Department immediately requested technical assistance from the United Nations
in order to be able to process the information they contained. In response,
UNDP offered the cooperation of the Executive Secretariat of the Argentine
National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP), which was
responsible for the investigation of the fate of thousands of persons who
disappeared in Argentina under the last military dictatorship.
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89. Yet after more than one year of intensive work, in which local personnel
and experts also participated, much still remains to be done. Although it
will take a considerable time to classify the information in question, there
are three points which are noteworthy at this time: first, the spontaneity
with which many diplomatic delegations accredited to Paraguay offered to
cooperate in the solution of the technical and infrastructural problems
raised by the discovery of the secret archives, which is indicative of the
credibility that the country has achieved in this field; secondly, the
dedication of and hard work done by the team formed by the two judges
responsible for the archives and by the State Attorney-General; thirdly, the
excellent idea of assigning representatives of NGOs active in the protection
of human rights to this team. This point is of inestimable value, since many
of the team’s members were precisely those who personally experienced the
terrible suffering reflected in these pages. We therefore extend our sincere
gratitude to those who, through their struggle, are laying the more virtuous
foundations of this young democracy.
90. The most innovative and outstanding features of the experience of
cooperation with Paraguay during the past four years of democratic government
have been the methods of work and inter-agency coordination, and the political
context in which cooperation is taking place, in addition to the far-reaching
changes in the actual content of the cooperation.
91. From the political standpoint, there is no doubt that the process of
transition to democracy was the historical context which made possible the
great progress in the field of cooperation, and also the many changes which
have taken place in society as a whole.
92. In this way, the progress made at the national level in such decisive
areas as human rights, public freedoms and political pluralism gradually
changed the internal physiognomy of the country and the perception of the
country abroad. Over a period of a few years, Paraguay has recovered its
credibility, and interest in the country has been growing. This has in turn
been reflected in a significant increase in external cooperation and greater
opportunities for Paraguay.
93. For this reason, and in order to be able to evaluate correctly the
crucial importance of external cooperation in areas of human priority for the
consolidation of the democratic system in Paraguay, account must be taken of
the fact that human rights, for example, were not only an essential pillar of
the transition in the internal sphere, but also played a decisive role in
Paraguay’s recovery of external credibility and its reincorporation within the
international community.
94. Another important aspect of the experience we are analysing has been the
multiplier and diversifier effect on cooperation of the concept of human
development. Unlike what happened in the past with international assistance,
which was directed essentially towards economic and strictly technical
performance, at present because of the positive impact of this new conception
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of development, cooperation has diversified, covering non-traditional sectors
such as human rights, ecology, the environment, indigenous peoples and the
other areas of human priority outlined in this report.
95. In this way, in the light of the progress achieved in Paraguay, the
benefits and advisability of extending cooperation to those sectors covered by
the term "human priority" have been clearly demonstrated, as has the
possibility of moving successfully into such sensitive or delicate areas as
human rights, without thereby creating tension with Governments or affecting
projects under way. On the contrary, experience has shown that undertakings
of this kind, like those under way in El Salvador, may help to forge mature
and constructive relations between the United Nations, the authorities of the
country concerned and the other national agencies involved, such as
non-governmental human rights organizations.
96. Furthermore, the example of Paraguay shows the advantages of putting into
practice the various parameters established by UNDP in its successive reports
on human development and highlights the falsity of arguments that those
parameters are designed to restrict or impose conditions on international
assistance, when in fact their purpose is to steer cooperation towards areas
from which it has almost always been absent and where it is today needed more
than ever, namely, the areas of human priority.
97. The substantial increase in technical assistance generated by the
transition process and the consequent steady growth of activities have had as
their immediate results: (a) a more active role by the local United Nations
office; and (b) a need to achieve higher levels of harmony and coordination
between the various components of cooperation.
98. An interesting aspect of the human rights project has been its low cost;
with total contributions not exceeding $500,000 from UNDP, the Centre for
Human Rights, the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, and
the Government of Paraguay, it has been possible to undertake all the
activities referred to in this report.
99. The experience analysed, although relating to a single country, prompts
us to suggest various courses of action which may be grouped under two
different types of recommendations.
General recommendations
100. Taking into account the necessity and importance of increasing
development assistance to reach and exceed the goal of 0.7 per cent of the GNP
of donor countries, it is recommended that:
(a) External cooperation should be reoriented so as to adequately cover
the various areas of human priority, such as human rights, judicial reform,
ecological problems, peacemaking processes, action to combat poverty and
social marginalization, the protection of indigenous communities, etc. In
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brief, cooperation programmes must take careful account of the human dimension
of development and, in particular, the positive impact of social investment on
the acceleration of development;
(b) The parameters contained in the various reports on human
development must be taken into account in the allocation of resources and the
formulation of future cooperation strategies;
(c) The cooperation activities undertaken by the Centre for Human
Rights in the context of advisory services or financed by the Voluntary Fund
for Technical Cooperation, although of recent origin and very low in cost,
have always, as in this case, had an extremely positive effect. For this
reason, Governments are urged to increase their contributions to this Fund.
(d) Bearing in mind that inter-agency coordination has now become a
prerequisite for the success of any programme, and noting the irreplaceable
role played by local offices in this connection, it is essential to improve
their facilities and to strengthen their staff with human rights specialists.
(e) Over and above the need to increase ODA funds, another key to the
future is the development of technical cooperation based on the organization,
training and maximum use of all available local resources, in particular
existing human resources.
Specific recommendations for Paraguay
101. Bearing in mind the positive effect which technical cooperation in the
field of human rights has had and the many needs that still have to be met,
this cooperation should be maintained, and even increased, at least in the
following areas:
(a) Judicial and prison reform; modernization and computerization of
the whole system;
(b) Technical assistance in the drafting of the Penal Code and the Code
of Criminal Procedure.
102. As a result of Paraguay’s ratification of most of the international human
rights instruments, there is now an imperative need to maintain a high level
of advisory services in the following areas:
(a) The alignment of domestic law with international law;
(b) The preparation of reports and the formulation of replies to the
many requests originating from the international human rights bodies;
(c) Training of judges, lawyers, members of the Public Prosecutor’s
Department, security personnel and all other law-enforcement officials.
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103. Lastly, it is extremely important that there should be increased support
(a) The non-governmental human rights organizations which, in Paraguay,
enjoy great prestige because of their history of action to combat oppression;
(b) Activities in support of the most vulnerable groups, such as
children, rural women and indigenous peoples, including assistance in the
establishment of a disabled persons’ organization and financial support for
its activities;
(c) Governmental and non-governmental programmes in the areas of formal
and non-formal education;
(d) Libraries, documentation centres, educational institutions,
universities, etc., offering, as appropriate, teaching material and
specialized or other publications, and facilitating public access to that
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