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), was created to be a non-partisan, independent Canadian institution. It was 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] R&D received around C$11m per year in funding from the Canadian government.[2]

R&D was charged with working with individuals, organizations and governments in Canada and abroad to promote the human and democratic rights defined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). To this end, R&D sought to develop tools for Human Rights Impact Assessment that can be applied 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 an 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 of 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]

R&D had been criticized intensely for promoting antidemocratic positions and allying with radical groups that supported policies inconsistent with Canadian values. In particular, after the Harper government declared that in the UN Durban Review Conference, scheduled for Geneva in 2009, Canada would not participate and no government funds could be used in support of this antisemitic event, R&D reportedly defied this policy. On October 29, 2009, in a parliamentary hearing of the standing committee on Foreign Affairs, MP James Lunney asked Rémy Beauregard, R&D's organization's president and a holdover from the Liberal government, "Did Rights and Democracy play any role, directly or indirectly, in planning for or participating in the conference in Durban?" Beauregard replied: "No, we did not," but an R&D staff member reported that during 2008, the organization had in fact been active in the preparations for this event. Reports also noted that "at least seven R&D employees were working in Geneva" at the time, and when Deloitte & Touche audited the funding, it was "impossible to identify" how more than $140,000 in R&D funds had been spent.[4]

In the midst of these activities and conflicts, the leadership was changed by the government, and Professor Aurel Braun, from the University of Toronto, was appointed chair of R&D's board of directors in January 2009. Beauregard immediately clashed with Braun, and the conflicts expanded after Braun was joined on the board by David Matas.[2][5] After the Durban controversy, board members discovered a secret funding decision provided three radical groups (one Israeli and two Palestinian) - Al-Haq, Al Mazen, and B'Tselem.[6][7]

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 (hired during Beauregard's tenure) called for Braun's resignation, accusing him of "a pattern of harassment." Suggesting a conspiracy that resulted in the heart attack, four hold-over 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] A Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Canadian House of Commons recommended a number of reforms in the Board of Directors of Rights and Democracy and found several aspects of the controversy "unclear and disputed." It nonetheless included among its recommendations that "current Board of Rights and Democracy issue an apology to Mr. Beauregard`s family for any statements damaging his reputation."[8]

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.[4][9][10]

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."[11]

References[edit]

External links[edit]