International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development

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International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
Established 1988
Last chairman Aurel Braun
Staff 47
Location Montreal
Address 1001 de Maisonneuve Blvd
Dissolved 2012

The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy), had been created to be a non-partisan, independent Canadian institution, established by an act of the Canadian parliament in 1988 to "encourage and support the universal values of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices around the world."[1] It received around C$11m per year in funding from the Canadian government.[2]

R&D worked with individuals, organizations and governments in Canada and abroad to promote the human and democratic rights defined in the United Nations' International Bill of Human Rights. One of its most enduring efforts has been to protect citizens from rights abuses perpetrated by corporations. To this end, it developed a series of tools for Human Rights Impact Assessment that can be carried out by civil society groups.

John Humphrey Freedom Award[edit]

The center offered an annual prize, called the John Humphrey Freedom Award (named after John Peters Humphrey), to any organization or person from any part of the world including Canada for outstanding achievement in promoting democratic development or respect for human rights. The award consisted of $25.000 (later $30,000) endowment and a speaking tour to Canadian cities to increase the awareness about the laureate’s work.[3] Notable winners include Kimy Pernía Domicó (Colombia), bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo (East Timor), Cynthia Maung and Min Ko Naing, (Burma).

Controversy[edit]

Aurel Braun was appointed chair of R&D's board of directors in January 2009. It was not long before he clashed with Rémy Beauregard, the organization's president.[2]

Following a particularly hostile board meeting in January 2010, Beauregard died of a heart attack, and board members Sima Samar, Payam Akhavan and Guido Riveros resigned.[2] Riveros wrote an extense and public letter demanding Braun's resignation. Subsequently 45 of the centre's 47 staff demanded Braun's resignation, accusing him of "a pattern of harassment", and four members of the board requested "a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Beauregard's death, with a focus on the role and conduct of the board".[2]

Moreover, funding decisions within the organization had been full of conflict, not least over funding provided to one Israeli and two Palestinian human rights organizations, organizations which Braun called "vicious."[4] The three organizations were Al-Haq, Al Mazen, and B'Tselem.[5]

Closure[edit]

In April 2012, the Canadian government announced that it was closing down R&D and would transfer the organization’s functions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The closure was due to the controversies surrounding the agency.[6][7]

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said, "For some time, the many challenges of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, also known as Rights & Democracy, have been well publicized. It is time to put these past challenges behind us and move forward."[8]

References[edit]

External links[edit]