According to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations (DESA), the world population currently has four trends that have direct implications for sustainable development: population growth, population aging, urbanism, and international migration. While the first three trends are matters of local or national management, comprehensive migration management requires cooperation between countries of origin, transit, and destination.
A key area for the consolidation of regional initiatives on migration is the Central American Integration System (SICA). The SICA Secretariat has been successful in multiple projects for the axes and guidelines that direct its work from a human rights perspective (as opposed to those who see migration only as a security issue), and involving the migrant as a subject of development (rather than simply victims or beneficiaries). SICA also seeks the mainstreaming of migration in other issues necessary for the development of communities, such as health, education and the economy.
Towards the end of 2018, SICA’s General Secretariat and the IOM signed a cooperation agreement to establish the general guidelines for the design and execution of a regional study on the causes and consequences of migration; The same document will also provide key elements and recommendations for the Action Plan for comprehensive attention to migration in the region, known as PAIM-CA (Plan for Integral Attention to Migration in Central America). The study was conducted under the 12 general guidelines approved SICA’s Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in June 2018.
Of the 12 guidelines approved by SICA, we highlight five that must be addressed from a multilateral cooperation viewpoint so that work to improve migrant conditions is effective:
Comprehensive migration governance: This aspect has a strong practical character, since it goes through the standardization of procedures and migration processes, and the strengthening of border management. In addition, the implementation of strategies to exchange information for the regional generation of data that allow an international treatment of the migratory phenomenon is encouraged.
Why is this aspect comprehensive? Because it also includes a social component, including the strengthening of neighborhood relations in cross-border communities, and committing to respect human rights when there are cases of deportation or detention.
Labor migration: Through the implementation of regional and bilateral agreements it is possible to promote circular and orderly labor migration flows. International cooperation in this area also favors the creation of mechanisms that strengthen the protection of labor rights for migrants.
Social integration: The actions between States allow greater integration of migrants and their families in the countries of destination, as well as returnees. Promoting actions at a regional level that recognize the positive contributions of migrants helps reduce prejudice and xenophobic actions towards these groups of people. Finally, promoting regular migration as a viable and accessible option and discouraging irregular migration facilitates social integration in work, health and other spheres.
Trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling: It is essential to combat these crimes in coordination with the relevant regional bodies, but it is also necessary to strengthen the information and statistics system for a deeper understanding of how migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons work, their areas of action and main victims, among other characteristics. SICA also aims to promote the consolidation of the Regional Coalition’s work against these crimes.
Comprehensive management of migratory crises: Regardless of the migratory status of a person, it is necessary to provide humanitarian assistance when someone needs it. This includes food, water, sanitation, shelter, health and safety care, and psychosocial support. The strengthening of mechanisms that allow the temporary or permanent protection of migrants, especially the most vulnerable, is a job that requires international cooperation to be effective. In practical terms this means the issuance of humanitarian migratory permits. In addition to this, it is necessary that States have contingency plans for the attention of migratory crises, strengthen the relevant institutions (including consulates), and develop national and regional information systems: inter-institutional coordination is key for diligence in tackling migratory crises.
Since the inclusion of migration in the 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, it becomes more evident that demographic changes and crises make migration a global issue, and as such it must be addressed transversally (through social and economic perspectives) and internationally (with interstate and intraregional work). In the words of Irune Aguirrezabal of IOM’s regional office in Brussels: "Migration is inevitable in view of the driving forces in an interconnected world; necessary, if skills are to be available, jobs to be filled and economies to flourish; and desirable for the contributions that migrants make both to countries of origin and destination." International cooperation is what makes it possible for this to happen in a safe, orderly and dignified manner.