BRASILIA, Brazil, December 3 (UNHCR) – Latin America and Caribbean countries today agreed to work together to uphold the highest international and regional protection standards, find innovative solutions to protect refugees, displaced people and end the plight of the region’s stateless. These commitments, embodied in the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action, are the outcome of a ministerial meeting in Brasilia, which rounds off the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.
The landmark Cartagena Declaration, now entering its fourth decade, was adopted in the Colombian city in 1984. It broadened the refugee definition for Latin America and proposed new approaches to the humanitarian needs of refugees and displaced people in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation.
The Brazil Declaration and its Plan of Action acknowledge the new realities in Latin America and the Caribbean, forcing people to flee and seek protection. As a response, States designed new strategies to further enhance opportunities for local integration, resettlement, voluntary repatriation and regional labour mobility programmes as well as guarantee rights for refugees and the displaced.
States also committed to eradicate statelessness by 2024, becoming the first region to respond to UNHCR’s global call. States recalled that every person has the right to a nationality and that statelessness is a violation of human rights.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres praised the commitments States made in Brazil, describing them as “courageous, generous and visionary”.
“Now the onus is on the region to translate with determination these commitments into actions that have a concrete and positive impact in the lives of refugees, displaced and stateless persons” he said in his remarks.
“We are witnessing history in the making,” said Guterres. He commended the Latin American and the Caribbean region for stepping forward to take up a leadership role in caring for the world’s most vulnerable and showcasing best practices on international protection and solutions.
Brazil’s Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, welcomed the outcomes, emphasizing the need for continued regional cooperation. “Thirty years ago, a group of people issued a visionary declaration. I hope we have the same pragmatic vision this time,” he said.
“The Brazilian Government has a firm commitment to receive well all foreigners that arrive here. It’s up to us to provide protection for those in need, guarantee that human rights are respected and be prepared to face this situation.”
The Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jan Egeland lauded the declaration and the road map. “Other continents can learn from Latin America and the Caribbean in how to find regional solidarity for protection and solutions to displacement,” Egeland said.
“The continent also has many of the world’s finest civil society organisations that have given valuable contributions to the Cartagena process in consultations all over the continent organized by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Governments should consult with and make use of these NGOs when disasters, conflict and other forms of violence cause displacements.”
The final event in Brasilia was hosted by the Government of Brazil and co-organized by UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council and attended by a number of international and regional humanitarian agencies. Four sub-regional meetings in Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Cayman Islands contributed to draw up the final declaration and the new plan of action.
Latin America and the Caribbean has over 6 million internally displaced, refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people, and the region has also recently been dealing with thousands of unaccompanied children that are fleeing northwards and seeking safety in Central America and beyond.