The Regional Group on Risks, Emergencies and Disasters for Latin America and the Caribbean (REDLAC) is a regional coordination platform for disaster preparedness and response, which emerged as a way to improve joint analysis and provide regional support to global and national partners.
Established in 2003, REDLAC is composed by regional organisations present in Panama, inspired by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). Through REDLAC, organisations work together to strengthen technical capacities and competencies, in order to improve the regional response to disasters through a sectoral approach. REDLAC facilitates better coordination, preparation and information sharing, and facilitates a permanent dialogue between actors.
In 2015, in response to the growing protection needs of people and communities due to generalised and criminal violence in various regions of the North of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), a Regional Protection Group was formed under the REDLAC structure in Panama.
Among the objectives of this Regional Protection Group are to provide analysis on the causes and humanitarian impacts of this violence and displacement in the North of Central America (NCA) and Mexico, as well as to increase the visibility of the protection needs at the regional and global level.
Since 2018, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has led the production of periodic analytical snapshots covering the situation of violence and displacement in the region. The research for these snapshots is based on inputs from semi-structured interviews with more than 100 humanitarian organisations and academic institutions working in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, as well as from an ongoing monitoring of official statistics, press reports, academic research and grey literature from humanitarian organisations.
The publications provide an overview and joint positioning of humanitarian organisations working in the region, highlighting the needs and the gaps they identify in the current response. The snapshots include inputs from various organisations in the Protection Group, but do not necessarily reflect messages approved by each organisation.
The snapshots aim to increase the understanding of the protection situation in the NCA and Mexico, at both the regional and global level, and to strengthen humanitarian coordination as well as advocacy efforts towards governments and donors. Furthermore, they are used as a tool supporting operational decision-making in the national protection groups in the region.
Climate change and displacement in the North of Central America and Mexico
There are figures on human displacements caused by sudden disasters of natural origin, mainly those whose destination, whether temporary or permanent, is within the same country, but it is less common to find figures for those displacements that cross one or more international borders. Information on displacement and migration caused by progressive and slow-onset disasters of natural origin, such as droughts or increased coastal erosion, is also scarce. However, the number of investigations and case studies on this problem has increased considerably, especially since 2008.
In this Bulletin, identifies the sectors and population profiles most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as well as the responses that institutions are developing and the coordination of organizations to meet the humanitarian needs of the affected people. In addition, reference is made to how climate change affects the region.
Finally, the results of a Survey applied to the organizations that are part of the REDLAC Protection Group and other humanitarian organizations are presented, in order to understand the main challenges, they experience to face the existing links between climate change, migration and displacement.
- Despite being one of the regions that contributes the least to global warming, Northern Central America is one of the regions that is the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
- The last 40 years have been characterized by a marked increase in the intensity of extreme weather events, with an average of 20 disasters a year since the 1980s.
- Climate change is a factor that affects and is superimposed on other triggers for displacement in the countries of Northern Central America and Mexico, such as poverty and generalized violence, in a framework of more structural challenges of human rights guarantees.
- Smallholder farmers, people dedicated to fishing, indigenous communities and women are population groups with profiles of greater vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
- Although there is progress at the level of environmental legislation, the implementation of policies to mitigate, prevent, protect, and assist the effects of climate change remains weak and underfunded.
- On the other hand, the provision of regulatory frameworks for climate change adaptation and mitigation in most cases is not in accordance with the implementation of mechanisms that holistically analyze the links between climate change and displacement. As an advance, it is important to highlight that in Guatemala the issue of human mobility was integrated into the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
- Humanitarian organizations are the main actors in the response to displacement due to climate change and contribute through resilience projects in rural areas to prevent them. However, assistance still does not sufficiently articulate the interconnection between the variables of generalized violence and climate change as push factors.
- Climate change is an underrepresented factor in most of the records and monitoring of displacement in the countries of Northern Central America and Mexico. Coordinated efforts are needed in terms of language adaptation to measure its weight as a trigger for displacement cycles. As well as the recognition of this type of displacement in the regulatory frameworks to facilitate the measurement of the phenomenon and its approach.
Disappearances in the North of Central America and Mexico
A person that goes missing is a situation of constant suffering. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross “missing persons are those whose whereabouts are unknown to their families and/or who, on the basis of reliable information, have been reported missing in connection with an (international or non-international) armed conflict, a situation of internal violence or disturbances or any other situation that may require the intervention of a neutral and independent intermediary”. On the other hand, according to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ratified by Honduras and Mexico, and signed by Guatemala) “Enforced disappearance“ shall be understood as the arrest, detention, kidnapping or any other form of deprivation of liberty conducted by State agents or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by the refusal to recognize said deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, removing them from the protection of the law”.
In Northern Central America, disappearances have been a constant throughout history, the armed conflicts in the 70s and 80s, situations of violence that are related to criminal groups, domestic and gender violence can be mentioned; and a situation that has gained notoriety in the last decade, are the disappearances along the migratory route, particularly in the journey through Mexico and southern United States.
This Bulletin addresses the historical and legal context of disappearances; it presents statistical data that provide approximations to the phenomenon of disappearances, the links with social and criminal dynamics that can cause the disappearance of people; and an analysis of how the States have responded. Likewise, a specific section is presented on disappearances along the migration route and some of the psychosocial support mechanisms that humanitarian and civil society organizations have provided to families of disappeared migrants are exposed.
- In Northern Central America and Mexico, the disappearance of people is a phenomenon present throughout the cycle of migration and displacement.
- Disappearances are a repeated practice of criminal groups and State agents are sometimes involved.
- There is a serious crisis of a missing childhood. In particular, girls between the ages of 13 and 17 are most vulnerable.
- Although there has been progress in the classification and approach of disappearances, the deficiencies of the search and follow-up mechanisms produce a rate of under-registration and barriers to guarantee of immediate search.
- There is a generalized idea that it is a crime to migrate irregularly, therefore, sometimes people do not report the disappearance of a migrant relative because they are afraid, they will cause problems with the authorities.
- There are great challenges in the consolidation and quality of the available information, since each governmental and non-governmental institution manages its own databases, and these vary significantly from one another.
- Civil society organizations and humanitarian organizations are the main actors that provide psychosocial and legal support to the families of disappeared migrants.