Mexico spearheads new approach to migration

21 May 19

Efforts to tackle migration from Central America are at the heart of the region’s innovative effort to demonstrate it is focusing more on development than concerns over security.

Preliminary plans advanced by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean aim to recast the issue of migration as one of human development not national security.

They envisage a development agenda based on a new vision of a problem that has risen rapidly up the political agenda since Donald Trump became US president,  which addresses the drivers of migration such as poverty and natural disasters.

“As has been said very clearly, based on arguments and data, people emigrate out of necessity, lack of job opportunities or violence, and we have to address these causes, we have to go to the origin of what is provoking this migratory phenomenon,” said Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the launch of the proposals.

He added that the El Salvador-Guatemala-Honduras-Mexico Comprehensive Development Plan “is really important for Mexico and the brother countries of Central America because it addresses the heart of the problem”.

Migration from Central America into Mexico has become a flashpoint in relations between the US administration and its southern neighbours, with Washington’s reflex to approach the issue as one of national security by militarising border enforcement.

ECLAC is taking a different tack, envisaging this as a developmental issue by which a “right to development in places of origin” is the solution so that people are not forced to migrate as a result of poverty or violence.

In late 2018, just after López Obrador took office, the Mexican president and his counterparts in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras asked ECLAC to diagnose the underlying drivers of migration in the sub-region.

The commission presented its strategy in Mexico yesterday and proposes approaching migration as an issue of “human security” that encompasses human rights, public safety, and livelihoods – instead of addressing it as an issue of national security.

Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, said the Comprehensive Development Plan is an opportunity to position the analysis of migratory issues and policies within the broad framework of development.

“This initiative is, to date, the most comprehensive effort on a global scale to put the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration into effect, and it constitutes an extraordinary opportunity to forge a new development pattern with equality and sustainability starting in the region,” she said.

Bárcena added that the plan aims to address the migratory cycle through a focus on human security by placing the right to development in places of origin at the centre of these efforts.

The Comprehensive Development Plan makes 30 recommendations in four areas: economic development, social well-being, environmental sustainability and risk management, and the comprehensive management of the migratory cycle through a human security approach.

These aspire to improve growth, integration, disaster responses and universal social protection systems, while addressing the underlying causes of mobility in the sub-region.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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