On March 10, 2023, the Inter-American Juridical Committee (IAJC), an advisory body of the Organization of American States (OAS), adopted an Inter-American Declaration of Inter-American Principles on the Creation, Operation, Financing, and Dissolution of Not-for-Profit Civil Entities at its plenary session.
In collaboration with Ramiro Orias of the IAJC, ICNL led a participatory process engaging over 100 experts from across Latin America and the Caribbean to develop and propose the twelve principles contained in the Declaration, which is also available in Spanish. IAJC standards on regulation of civil society organizations (CSOs) are much needed, as organizations in all OAS member states face legal obstacles related to issues that are covered in the new Principles.
The IAJC, the Inter-American System’s leading legal authority, works to promote the progressive development and codification of international law on a state level and to study the possibility of standardizing legislation across the western hemisphere. Its pronouncements offer guidance and models to States and can provide civil society organizations with credible norms and data to support their advocacy for enabling legal reforms.
The new Inter-American Principles on the regulation of civil society organizations were informed by a regional report (in Spanish only) on the laws and implementation practices governing civil society organization creation, operation, financing, and dissolution in the 35 Organization of American States member States. The report was produced with broad participation by regional partners.
The regional report revealed widespread problematic laws and practices, but also a few enabling models – notably from Chile and the Dominican Republic – that could be used as a template by other countries. ICNL also produced a briefer on the proposed Inter-American Principles. The briefer includes one-page summaries for each principle; the problematic trends underlying the need for the principle; and illustrative excerpts of global, Inter-American, and other regional or relevant legal standards underpinning the principle. Additionally, a database of relevant laws compared to international and regional legal standards is also included as an annex to the Regional Report.
Representatives of civil society and other sectors can use the Inter-American Principles and related materials to:
- Assess the laws and practices in their own countries;
- Convene multi-sector dialogues to discuss the country’s legal environment as compared to the Principles; and
- Advocate for enabling reforms.
With these Principles organizations and others now have strong regional standards based on international law and approved by a leading legal authority to collaborate with governments to produce a more enabling environment for CSOs.