Costa Rica: Social Audit of Human Rights in the Canton of Upala, 1996

Initiated in October 1996, this project resulted from collaboration among United Nations agencies: UNHCR, ILO, UNICEF and UNDP together with the office of the Costa Rican Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoría de los Habitantes). Upala had a high proportion of Nicaraguan migrants. Preliminary results showed high levels of discrimination against the migrants, discrimination against women and serious difficulties for children in schools and in the workplace. Human rights problems were intertwined with low levels of education, lack of agricultural credit and the region’s weak infrastructure. The vulnerability of the migrant population was compounded by lack of clarity in their situation and excessive difficulty in obtaining legal status. Employers took advantage of this situation to violate the human rights of migrant workers. Migrant women faced discrimination not only in the workplace but within their own households. Access to education was difficult for children of migrants due to lack of proper documents. Among those admitted to school, desertion was common due to the rigidity of the school calendar; parents needed their children’s help in the fields during certain periods of the year. This social audit was the first step in the preparation of the participating agencies’ plans for action to address the situation in that region.