Honduras is a constitutional democracy. November 2005 national elections were considered by international and domestic observers to be generally free and fair. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. Human rights problems included: unlawful killings and beatings by members of the police, government agents, vigilantes, street gangs, and former members of the security forces; failure to provide legal due process; politicization, corruption, and institutional weakness of the judiciary; erosion of press freedom; intimidation of human rights defenders; government restrictions on recognition of NGOs; trafficking in persons; and ineffective labor law enforcement.
The U.S. strategy for promoting democracy and human rights is directed at continuing support for democratic political processes and improving human rights conditions, particularly regarding respect for the rule of law and transparency. Priority objectives include supporting free and fair elections in November 2009 and assisting government initiatives for investigating allegations of corruption and electoral fraud. In developing strategy priorities, U.S. officials consult with government institutions, NGOs, labor unions, and other organizations and work closely with these groups to encourage reforms and discuss problems related to human rights and democracy. Strategy objectives also include strengthening the effectiveness of civil society organizations that promote democracy, as well as combating trafficking in persons and child labor. The United States uses diplomatic engagement, public outreach, foreign assistance programs, and related activities to advance strategy objectives.
To support the promotion of free and fair November 2009 elections, the United States is actively working with government institutions and civil society organizations. The U.S. government funds the Federation of Honduran NGOs and a coalition of civil society organizations, the Civic Movement for Democracy, to support dialogue and implementation of reforms to the 2004 electoral law, as well as voter education, poll worker training, and domestic election observer programs. U.S. officials coordinate their efforts with other bilateral donors to support institutional strengthening of Honduran government election organs, such as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
Addressing corruption and institutional weakness are major parts of the embassy's current activities. The United States offers technical and financial resources to public and private organizations, including providing speakers and training to government officials, NGOs and civil society representatives on transparency, rule of law, citizen participation, and accountability. The U.S. government's Good Governance and Decentralization program strengthens the capacity of local governments to improve accountability to citizen demands. The program fosters citizen engagement and dialogue with government representatives. Its focus on political decentralization will increase government responsiveness to citizen needs, and citizen participation in public decision making. The embassy also supports the Strengthened Rule of Law Program that advocates for the implementation of the new transparency law and civil procedure code to provide greater access to public information and modernize the civil justice system.
As part of the U.S. embassy's active public diplomacy agenda, mission officials regularly discuss human rights and labor rights priorities with government officials and NGOs, including holding public dialogues on the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
U.S. officials provide technical assistance to strengthen the democracy promotion activities of several civil society organizations and coalitions. These NGOs focus on government oversight, including local government accountability, public monitoring of government use of public resources, and legislative reforms. For example, the U.S. government is sponsoring workshops for civil society members, student leaders, and government representatives. These workshops are raising awareness and support for the implementation of a draft NGO law that would establish a legal framework for NGOs consistent with international norms and practices. U.S. officials are helping the government reach Millennium Challenge Corporation compact goals through a remediation plan that promotes transparency and combating corruption. To support compliance with this plan and to further respect for rule of law and good governance generally, the mission provides training to government officials, NGOs, law students, and others on the newly enacted civil procedure code and transparency laws.
To underscore the embassy's strong interest in ensuring respect for human rights within the country's security forces, the U.S. is funding 10 projects, including human rights practices training to military personnel, and working with the Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) to draft a human rights practices training manual for HOAF leadership. In supporting initiatives to combat the serious problem of trafficking in persons, the United States funds government and NGO capacity building efforts to assist trafficking victims. These include training for approximately 120 justice officers and civil society representatives regarding prevention, identification, assistance, protection of victims, and prosecution of alleged human traffickers.
The U.S. government continues to support a wide range of important labor rights projects. These initiatives address improving the quality and effectiveness of inspections, resolving worker-management conflicts, strengthening labor justice, and providing occupational health and safety training, especially in the agriculture production sector. At the regional level, the United States sponsors training for Honduran Labor Ministry officials on labor law requirements under the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. U.S. programs also fund the International Labor Organization's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor as well as the efforts of other international organizations and civil society groups to combat and gather information about the worst forms of child labor. The U.S. government also advocates directly on behalf of the right of workers to form unions, and through regular discussions with the Ministry of Labor has facilitated the resolution of several controversial labor disputes. A number of these controversies have involved violations of the right of association in the apparel assembly sector. To support efforts that address the gang violence problem in a humane manner, U.S. government-funded regional antigang initiatives include vocational training programs and building partnerships with the private sector to provide job opportunities for former gang members.