Human Rights and Civil Society

Human Rights Concerns Raised by Proposal to Consolidate Vulnerable Population Groups’ Protection Agencies under Social Development Ministry

11/21/2012—Earlier this month President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled plans to restructure government agencies during his upcoming presidential term. He intends to reassign various security-related functions to Ministry of the Interior (Gobernación), and fold entities such as the National Council to Prevent Discrimination “Conapred” into the Social Development Ministry “Sedesol.” Sedesol currently works to alleviate poverty in Mexico.

A number of other agencies that protect the needs of specific population groups would also consolidate under Sedesol: the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples’ Development; the National Institute for Women “Inmujeres”; the Mexican Institute for Youth; the Institute for Older Adults; the National Council for the Development and Inclusion of the Disabled, and; the National Council to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women.

Peña Nieto justifies these changes, in part, through the potential efficiencies to be gained through combating poverty and discrimination under one organizational umbrella. He has already tested such a model during his governorship of the State of Mexico. He expects the restructured agency to “intensify” the fight against poverty.

Peña Nieto has also expressed hopes that the changes will help improve the effectiveness of federal social programs. According to Excelsior, under President Calderón evaluation of the impacts of the government’s 130 such programs was acutely insufficient. Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy “Coneval” has urged the new administration to better evaluate program results, so as to maximize function.

Women’s and indigenous rights advocates are protesting the proposed changes. Many have called upon federal legislators to block the bill that would enact the restructuring, currently before Mexico’s House of Representatives (Cámara de Diputados). Martha Tagle of women’s rights group Mujeres in Plural calls the reorganization “serious and worrying.” She views the revocation of Inmujeres’ structural independence as a serious setback to efforts at incorporating gender perspectives into all aspects of Mexican governance. This loss of independence could significantly subordinate gender issues to other government priorities, she explains. According to Proceso, over 800 human rights experts and activists have signed an online petition to preserve Inmujeres’ autonomy.

Similarly, indigenous rights advocates decry the imminent abolition of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples’ Development. Eufrosina Cruz, President of the House of Representative’s Commission for Indigenous Affairs, warns that the proposed changes would roll back years of indigenous peoples’ progress, only to create more bureaucracy. “We would be starting from zero all over again,” she lamented.

Peña Nieto’s plan would also abolish the Ministry of Agrarian Reform “SRA” and the National Agrarian Land Registry. In their stead, it would create a new Ministry of Agrarian, Land, and Urban Development. The new entity would assume all responsibilities related to land use, development and planning, including some duties now held by Sedesol. Furthermore, the incoming administration has detailed plans for a new, and more expansive anti-corruption agency.

Gomez, Ricardo. “PAN votará contra desaparición de la Función Pública.” El Universal. Nov 21, 2012.

Torres Ruíz, Gladis. “Se oponen feministas a que Sedesol absorba a Inmujeres.” Proceso. Nov. 20, 2012.

Melgar, Ivonne. “Iniciativa del presidente electo busca reforzar a Sedesol.” Excelsior. Nov. 18, 2012.

Montalvo, Tania L. “Sedesol, contra la probreza y la desigualdad.” CNN México. Nov. 15, 2012.

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