Assistant Secretary General Speech


June 7, 2022 - Los Angeles, California

HE Enrique Reina, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Honduras, Organizers of today’s important event, panelists, invited guests,

I am honored to address you today in this event co-organized by the International Trade Center and the Department of Social Inclusion of the OAS Secretariat for Access to Rights and Equity, to highlight the importance of fostering local development of areas that are prone to migration and displacement in the North of Central America.

The factors driving the increase in refugees, asylum-seekers, and other migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, arise out of their own peculiar circumstances. These countries are all afflicted, to varying degrees, by a set of interrelated challenges that can be attributed to violence and insecurity, poverty and inequality, natural disasters worsened by climate change, and a lack of economic opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic combined with the consistent onslaught of natural disasters exacerbated the existing precarious and vulnerable conditions faced by these populations. This plethora of complex issues are among the root causes that have driven out millions of people who have no choice but to leave and cross international borders in search of a new life.

The theme of this IX Summit of the Americas “Building a sustainable, resilient and equitable future” highlights three factors that require attention in the context of the region's migration and displacement agenda. The challenges faced by the countries of the North of Central America require an inclusive response that guarantees livelihoods and local development to help anchor potential migrants to their communities of origin.

Today, more than ever, these dynamics present both challenges and opportunities for these countries of origin, transit, destination, and return. Clearly, these countries cannot, on their own, bear all the responsibility for the overarching and inherent social, economic, and other implications. Indeed, these trends highlight the need to address these issues within the context of the commonly held value of shared responsibility. The situation demands collective action and the support of the international community, multilateral banks, and the private sector towards the delivery of sustainable solutions for the most vulnerable populations in the region.

From an OAS perspective, we recognize that the responsibility of protecting the human rights of migrants and refugees, on equal terms with other citizens, is borne by all of us. Respect for their human dignity promotes their inclusion and, at the same time, recognizes that their contributions are key to the development of countries of origin, transit, and destination.

It is within that framework that I would like to highlight some of the initiatives that we have been carrying out with a transformative vision for addressing human displacement and focusing on the enormous opportunities that this phenomenon presents.

For instance, the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework known as MIRPS established in 2017 by the Declaration of San Pedro Sula is a State-led cooperation mechanism that promotes regional partnerships towards a comprehensive and operational response to strengthen the protection of people in displacement and addressing its root causes. In addition, it also encourages durable solutions while countering the cycle of forced displacement in the region.

The MIRPS is composed of 7 countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and Honduras currently leads the Pro Tempore Presidency of this cooperation framework.

The OAS has been supporting the MIRPS countries as its Technical Secretariat through our Department of Social Inclusion and in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Within the framework of shared responsibility, the MIRPS also prioritizes the consolidation of strategic alliances among key actors, including the private sector, development banks and agencies so that they can contribute via the design and implementation of joint programs and projects.

As the OAS, one of our priorities related to MIRPS has been to build bridges and to engage more proactively with regional partners in the private sector and the business community whom we believe have a role to play in generating sustainable livelihood options for these populations.

The subject of today’s event looks at the importance of fostering prosperity in migration prone areas in the North of Central America and in our entire region. It is a thematic area that is aligned with our institution’s mandates and our aspirations for the region.

In this context, efforts must be geared towards supporting improved conditions to allow communities to create prosperity in their homeland, to encourage investment and livelihood strategies that generate income and viable economic opportunities in these communities, and help people to move out of poverty and build successful lives at home rather than abroad. These efforts should also complement the development plans and local development strategies of the countries of the North of Central America and should contribute to strengthen the institutional capacity of national and local governments, key ministries and municipalities. It is our collective hope that these efforts will help harness developmental potential and build resilience in these communities.

The International Trade Center has made significant efforts through its CRECER initiative transforming border areas into thriving hubs that deliver economic prospects and strengthen the social fabric of local communities. Efforts must continue to expand durable solutions, promote specific public policies for refugees, displaced persons and returnees, and integrate them into programs to facilitate self-reliance.

At the OAS we believe that local development can contribute to addressing the root causes of migration and displacement in these areas and to build the resilience of communities of origin, laying the groundwork for long-term sustainability.

We see great potential in how the private sector, working along with local governments, can propose innovative solutions to address not only the root causes of migration and displacement, but also to explore opportunities to boost social and economic inclusion for these populations.

In this endeavor, we are also committed to strengthening partnerships and advocacy for addressing the root causes of migration and to enhance the positive contributions of this phenomenon.

On behalf of the OAS, I wish to acknowledge the presence of the ITC, USAID, the regional banks and private sector actors, and I salute and thank them for their joint efforts to support the call to action in benefit of the most vulnerable populations of the North of Central America. The OAS encourages others to be responsive to this call to joint action.

Let us coalesce around a common approach to action aimed at effecting the positive outcomes that can emerge from the circumstances before us. Let us take advantage of the momentum ushered in by this Summit of the Americas as we work together to support Central American countries in search of more rights for more people, more inclusion, more prosperity, and more protection.

We hope to continue counting on the commitment and effective support of each of you and of the institutions you represent.

Thank you very much for your attention and for your commitment to the task ahead.