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Latin American countries mark Cartagena Declaration

Briefing notes

Latin American countries mark Cartagena Declaration

16 November 2004

Representatives from 18 Latin American countries meeting today in Mexico City are expected to adopt a declaration and plan of action which include a series of far-reaching actions to enhance the protection of refugees throughout the region.

While reaffirming the relevance and endurance of the principles established 20 years ago by the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, senior officials from all over Latin America, as well as experts and leaders from civil society, will address current challenges in the region through an ambitious Plan of Action.

The Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of 1984 is a landmark document which offered an innovative approach to refugee protection and solutions, and broadened the refugee definition applied in Latin America.

The event to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Cartagena was inaugurated yesterday by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers. The event is hosted by the Mexican Government and co-organized by UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council, and sponsored by the human rights organisations of the Inter-American System.

The Plan of Action addresses the humanitarian needs of people fleeing violence in Colombia. It is estimated that the number of registered refugees and asylum-seekers (some 40,000) in Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela represents only a fraction of the total Colombian population in need of protection in those countries. The Plan of Action includes a comprehensive programme to assess the needs of Colombians and of local host communities, especially in border areas of neighbouring countries, allowing for complementary humanitarian and development-oriented activities.

The Plan of Action will also address the other main challenges to refugee protection in Latin America, which include an increasing number of refugees in the main urban centres who are struggling to achieve self-sufficiency and the development of asylum systems and building the protection capacity of governments and NGOs working with refugees.

The plan proposes concrete actions which include working to achieve self-sufficiency and local integration in the cities, stimulating social and economic development in border areas to benefit refugees and the local population, and establishing a programme of resettlement in Latin America as a way to ease pressure on those countries receiving large number of refugees.