Four opportunities to strengthen OCAM’s outreach

Four opportunities to strengthen OCAM’s outreach


On November 15, the 45th Ordinary Meeting of the Central American Commission of Migration Directors (OCAM) was held in Guatemala City. OCAM has joined the Central American Integration System (SICA), which was created in October 1990, in San José, Costa Rica, at the request of the Central American Presidents within the framework of the Central American Economic Action Plan (PAECA). PAECA brings the migration authorities of the region together, including Panama, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

In the meeting, key migration issues in the region were discussed. I was positively struck by the fact that such a broad spectrum of forms of migrations was covered. From irregular migration, trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, to the free movement of people, innovation and the creation of opportunities in places of expulsion and the voluntary return of migrants, among others.

In opening speech, Guatemala’s Vice President, Jafeth Cabrera Franco, underlined the challenge posed by the gangs in the region, as well as the need to continue working on implementing the Partnership Plan for Prosperity of the Northern Triangle Countries. In her closing remarks, Mrs. Gilda Patricia Marroquín de Morales, 1st Lady of Guatemala, highlighted the need to work in places of expulsion of migrants. The presence of such high authorities at the event reveals the importance of the migration issue for the Guatemalan Government.

I would like to highlight four of OCAM’s opportunities for regional and continental projection:

1. A Comprehensive Migration Policy in the region. At the regional level, I want to point out the approval of the Integral Regional Migration Policy, which will include guidelines on protection and assistance during migration crises. A topic that complements a base of guidelines that form a comprehensive vision and that will allow to manage migration at different levels. This could become the migration road map for the countries of the region. We hope that this Regional Migration Policy will be approved at the Summit of Presidents that is scheduled for the end of this year.

2. Mechanisms of interaction between the OCAM and the RIAM. A second achievement that will facilitate the construction of a continental migration agenda is the definition of interaction mechanisms between OCAM and the Ibero-American Network of Migration Authorities (RIAM). The Pro-Tempore Presidency was recently transferred from Panama to Peru, where the next encounter will be held in 2018. In its 5th edition, the RIAM has generated an interesting exchange of good practices. However, RIAM must advance in the area of identification and coordination of actions on specific issues. Topics of continental interest such as the smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and the humanitarian protection of migrants in emergency situations, to name a few. 

3. Participation in the construction of the Global Compact on Migration. OCAM has raised the need to appropriate and participate actively in the construction of the global agenda on migration through the Global Compact on Migration (GCM). Regarding the GCM, I would like to highlight the participation of the migration authorities of the national consultations in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. The results of these consultations will be sent to the ambassadors’, Luis Arbor’s office, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the GCM.

Next year we will be facing the challenge of working with OCAM on the formulation of the documents and agreements that will give life to the GCM, which will be approved in September 2018 by the General Assembly of the UN. Without a doubt, the GCM is the most important tool for us to ensure adequate governance of migration, strengthened cooperation among countries and respect for the human rights of migrants, irrespective of their migratory status.

4. Global development through the SDGs. The Sustainable Development Goals or "the 2030 Agenda" are currently the most relevant tool for building a fairer and more inclusive society as well as for achieving prosperity while protecting the planet. Migration is a transversal theme in many of the 17 objectives, their targets and indicators. Goal 10 is particularly important: "Reduction of inequalities", with its Goal 10.7: " Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies " This goal includes indicator 10.7.2: "Number of countries that have implemented well-managed migration policies.”

In this sense, the SDGs offer the countries in the region and OCAM the opportunity to connect to development through a global perspective. This can only be achieved through an adequate follow-up of the 2030 Agenda, in which migration authorities of the region are called to gather and provide high quality data that will guide the creation of relevant policies and programs. Additionally, institutional systems and sub-systems that ensure adequate coordination at central and local level, including actors such as the civil society, academia and the private sector are crucial to ensuring success. For its part, IOM reinstates its commitment to continue providing support in these processes by providing tools such as the Migration Governance Index for example, that allow evaluating processes in favor of better migration governance.

This year’s OCAM meeting was a great success. There are many challenges and opportunities lying ahead, which only motivates us to continue our work to ensure that migration becomes the result of a voluntary decision, that the migration process can be regular and that migration becomes an active driver for development in the region.



   About the author:

Marcelo Pisani is the Regional Director of IOM for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. Mr. Pisani has 18 years of experience in project management, development of public policies, and in other areas related to fight poverty and the care of vulnerable populations in emergency situations. Previously he served as IOM's Chief of Mission in Colombia and Zimbabwe, and worked for the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). He is an architect of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. 



Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities

Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities
Categoria: Environmental Migration
Autor: Guest Contributor


The export of raw materials, hydrocarbons, and minerals occupy a prominent place in Latin America’s economic model. However, due to the extraction characteristics of some of these resources, environmental conflicts appear in several places around the continent (see details here). According to the UNDP, migration and displacement appear as a result of conflicts due to the activity of extractive industries. In the words of said organization:

"For many developing countries, mineral extraction continues to be an important economic engine with the potential to improve the results of human development, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When properly managed, mining can create jobs, foster innovation and bring investment and infrastructure to a scale that changes the game in the long term. However, if handled badly, mining can also lead to environmental degradation, displaced populations and an increase in inequality. " (Read more here)

In 1998, the United Nations established the guiding principles of internal displacement to address the protection needs of internally displaced persons. These principles include, among others, the prohibition of arbitrary displacement "in cases of large-scale development projects, which are not justified by a superior or primordial public interest". Although the IACHR has gathered information on the relationship between extractive interests and the displacement of persons, by 2016, in Latin America, only Mexico, Colombia and Peru had adopted laws on internal displacement, and only Guatemala had adopted policies on internal displacement. (see map).

In October 2018, however, a new tool relevant to the discussion appeared, with the release of the first draft of the legally binding international instrument on transnational corporations and other companies with respect to human rights, developed by a working group of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and described in resolution 26/9.

This tool is important because it refers specifically to internally displaced persons and migrants - without excluding their involvement in other parts of the text - as groups that must be given special attention in consultations (Article 9, point g.) and on the impact of the projects (article 15, point 5 of the implementation). This is significant given that one of the great consequences of the extractive transnationals is the displacement of people due to the repercussions on their economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Due to their political, social and environmental characteristics, Mexico and Central America have historically represented geostrategic value for the extraction of multiple natural resources. Mining for obtaining different materials, hydroelectric production and extensive agricultural crops (pineapple and palm, for example, the latter representing an important agrofuel) are some of the main industries related to environmental conflicts, causing potential displacement phenomena in the region. 

In this context, it’s important to ask what the displaced people of these territories can do to defend their rights. From the OHCHR draft, four relevant elements can be emphasized for the protection of people’s rights in displacement situations due to the involvement of transnational corporations in their environment:

· Address the legal process without economic cost, since there is a consensus on the need to address the lack of resources of affected communities that request the protection of their rights. Civil society campaigns recommend that once there are sufficient indications that a person is a victim of a human rights violation, the costs of the process to that person are exempted and he or she is not obliged to indemnify the corporate counterpart in case of acquittal. The economic support by the States towards the victims when carrying out legal proceedings of this nature is contemplated in the draft of the OHCHR (Article 8, point 6).

· Creating group processes is necessary, since the legal processes of protection of rights benefit from a collective approach when dealing with the issue of displacement, due to the characteristics of the impact of extractive industries in the communities. This way, it is possible to avoid opening several cases that can become discordant, reduce costs for the State and pool the victims’ resources. The draft accepts and includes the rights of victims both individually and in groups (article 6, point 1, article 8, points 1 and 2, article 12).

· Procure due diligence in the processes, allowing the displaced victims access to the necessary documentation with the cooperation of all parties. At the end of a process, if a displaced person victim of transnationals wins the case, it’s important that the reparation (economic, moral or otherwise) is given within a reasonable time. The impact of both the dispossession of land and the legal process affects several aspects of the victim’s daily life (food, family and community relations, economic activity, physical and mental health) so restoring their original conditions must be a priority for effective justice. OHCHR’s draft refers to cooperation as a function of the national implementation mechanisms of the binding instrument; for example, when responding to inquiries from victims, companies and the general public, or when sending recommendations to improve the implementation of the binding instrument itself (article 3, point 2, detail a. and b.)

· Find an integral solution to the problem, because even when processes are carried out collaboratively (previous point), these are usually long, which may cause the victim to consider agreements that are not integral solutions to their problem in order to resolve it in less time. This type of outcome can also be seen by the company as a simpler way to access land while improving their public reputation, which constitutes a serious antecedent when evaluating the impact of extractive companies, which is minimized. According to OHCHR’s draft, the victims have the right to "a) Restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition for victims; b) Environmental remediation and ecological restoration when appropriate, including coverage of expenses for relocation of victims, and replacement of community facilities."