The challenge of environmental migration in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean


Throughout the last decade, the increasingly severe consequences of climate change have brought a number of challenges for the Mesoamerican and the Caribbean region. This has led to increased pressure on human displacement. We still do not fully understand the consequences, it is however crucial for the region’s future development to understand this development.

According to data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) , there has been a significant increase in global average temperature over the last years. This development has a direct impact on the environments in which we as humans develop ourselves and carry out economic activities.

The Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index 2016, sees countries from Central America and the Caribbean as those most affected in the last decade.

The North Atlantic Hurricane region crosses the Caribbean Antilles and the Central American Isthmus. At the same time as El Niño (high temperature anomaly) and La Niña (low temperatures anomaly) have intensified, the flood-drought cycles have affected large crop-growing areas by reducing its potential for habitability.

This has been particularly severe in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, says the FAO Dry corridor - Situation report (June 2016). The levels of vulnerability in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama are also available in this report.

There are some islands off the coast of Panama that have been inhabited for over 150 years by the indigenous Guna Yala people that have disappeared due to rising sea levels. However, there are other islands in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, that are highly concerned about erosion and salinization of their land, states the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS).

The Global Report on Internal Displacement 2016 shows clearly how these types of events force  the affected population to move to other places. Whether it is due to the climatic event itself or the impact it has on the economic resources for their livelihood. The exploratory study launched by Hunger without Borders, in collaboration with IOM, the Organization of American States (OAS), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the London School of Economics, is a first step in establishing the link between migration, hunger and violence in Central America. However, it remains a challenge to learn the details about the actual impact.

The Environmental Migration Portal was implemented by IOM within the project “Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy” (MECLEP), which is funded by the European Union. This virtual platform promotes scientific research, the exchange of information and  constructive dialogue, in order to fill the current data gaps and the lack of knowledge or available studies about the migration-environment nexus.

More detailed research, as well as more coordination and closer cooperation between several stakeholders is required. to accurately define the true scale and nature of the efforts that must be carried out, in order to generate the required solutions to address the challenges of environmental migration.


Sobre el autor:

Francisco Masís Holdridge es Asistente Regional de Migración Laboral y Desarrollo Humano en la Oficina Regional para Centroamérica, Norteamérica y el Caribe de la OIM. Cuenta con una Maestría en Economía de la Universidad de Costa Rica y ha laborado como consultor para el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo y organizaciones del sector privado (EKA Consultores, entre otras). Asimismo, tiene experiencia en el desarrollo y gestión de proyectos de innovación.


Multilateral cooperation, a key for migration governance

Categoria: Migration Governance
Autor: Guest Contributor

Migratory movements in Central and North America have been determined by diverse political, economic, environmental, social and cultural factors. Due to their complexity, migration processes at national and regional levels reveal a great number of challenges, so cooperation and dialogue between countries and agencies is essential to address them properly.

Inter-state consultation mechanisms on migration (ISCM) are forums run by States in which information is exchanged and policy dialogues are held for States interested in promoting cooperation in the field of migration. These mechanisms can be regional (regional consultative processes on migration or RPCs), interregional (interregional forums on migration or IRFs) or global (global processes on migration).

There are 15 Regional Consultative Processes on migration active in the world, but few as consolidated and with as much experience as the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), created in 1996.

The RCM is a regional consultative process on migration to exchange experiences and good practices in ​​migration at a technical-political level. The coordination of policies and actions is carried out by its eleven member states: Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Created at the first Tuxtla Summit, the RCM is governed by the following objectives:

• Promote the exchange of information, experiences and best practices.

• Encourage cooperation and regional efforts in migration matters.

• Strengthen the integrity of immigration laws, borders and security.

This poses a great challenge, since it involves the balance of security issues at each country’s level as well as at a regional level, the search for national prosperity and economic improvement, and the rights of migrants in accordance with international agreements and conventions.

 "The issue of migration has many challenges, and among them is public opinion. Sometimes the issue of immigration is not so popular, if it is not addressed in an appropriate manner. There is a lot of misinformation about migration issues, and countries’ efforts are not always recognized," said Luis Alonso Serrano, coordinator of RCM’s Technical Secretariat.

The RCM works with three different liaison networks: the fight against trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, consular protection, and the protection of migrant children and adolescents. This year, the RCM is going through a re-launch process, led by Guatemala as Presidency Pro-Tempore, to innovate and be at the forefront in meeting regional objectives. The RCM is a dynamic process and evolution is one of its main characteristics.

Among its achievements is the establishment of different assistance projects for the return of vulnerable migrants, training workshops and seminars on migration issues, and technical and institutional assistance to the migration authorities of RCM’s member states.

The RCM has also published a comparative analysis of the legislation of Member States on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, which is periodically updated, as well as a series of guidelines and manuals for migration governance.

However, of all its achievements, the most important achievement of the RCM is teamwork: the commitment of continuous dialogue between countries characterized by different economic, socio-cultural and migratory realities. This regional consultation process provides a space for equal representation and participation to government delegates, facilitating the identification of matters of common interest, as well as needs, objectives and areas of action.

The efforts of the RCM are complemented by the work of other regional entities interested in migration governance, such as the Central American Integration System (SICA). Currently, SICA and IOM are developing a study on the causes and consequences of migration in the region, to develop a regional action plan to address the phenomenon.

As Serrano explains: "The immigration issue does not belong to a single country on its own. Through the exchange of experiences and good practices, a dialogue between peers is created to share challenges. You not only learn from the good, but also from the opportunities for improvement, in order to strengthen migration governance and ultimately reach the target population: the migrant population, whom we owe our work to. "

For more information about the RCM and access to documents and publications, visit: