Human Mobility and the XXII Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean: Why is it important to prevent forced migration and address the needs of environmental migrants?

Human Mobility and the XXII Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean: Why is it important to prevent forced migration and address the needs of environmental migrants?

The XXII Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean met virtually on 1-2 February 2021 with a focus on the environmental dimensions of the post-pandemic recovery. Under the presidency of Barbados, discussions led by representatives of the 33 countries of the region focused on the promotion of sustainable development to combine the post-COVID-19 recovery with the fulfillment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the fight against climate change.

From a migration perspective, it should be noted that the countries of the region have made progress in integrating human mobility into their climate agenda. The recent report of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the progress made in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration emphasizes the progress made by countries such as Belize, Guatemala and Peru in addressing climate migration.

However, it is important to remember that this integration continues to be limited to a restricted number of countries in the region. In fact, with some exceptions, few countries have advanced concrete commitments to address the drivers of climate migration and address the needs of migrants. This process requires the development of partnerships and a whole-of-government approach with entities in charge of various sectoral areas.

Ministries of the Environment play a fundamental role in this effort. Strategies such as climate change adaptation plans, nationally determined contributions, and national climate change policies offer opportunities to address climate migration.

The current pandemic context has once again highlighted the vulnerability of populations exposed to climate change in the region. In a context of restricted mobility and economic crisis, vulnerable communities generally have access to restricted livelihoods to cope with disasters and environmental degradation. The experience of Eta and Iota in Central America shows the extent to which multiple risk factors - including natural hazards, socioeconomic vulnerabilities and the pandemic - can create catastrophic scenarios in the region.

Integrating the migration perspective is essential to promote sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery plans. Human mobility is a fundamental feature of the social reality of Latin America and the Caribbean and the evidence shows that environmental and climatic factors will have a growing influence on these movements. Facilitating the resilience of communities so that they are not forced to migrate and meeting the needs of environmental migrants are crucial elements required to consolidate a solidary, comprehensive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).