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(CMC) – Central American leaders began a summit here Friday against the backdrop of increased migration to North America, the impact of climate change as well as crime and security on the region.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the leaders from the seven countries that form the Central American Integrated System (SICA) conference that it was necessary for there to be greater collaboration or face the prospect of “hanging separately”.
He said migration for example had been a major talking point in the region as citizens from the Central America move towards in a bid to secure a better way of life and escape the criminal gang violence.
“Many of our citizens have been seeking under the most onerous conditions to go north in search of security or economic opportunities or both.
“I should underscore that large scale migration is neither unique to this moment in history nor to our region. Nevertheless, the current flows and the response they have engendered are huge stressors of both the international human rights framework and hemispheric geopolitical relations,” Barrow said.
He told the summit that crime and violence remains another regional problem and “it is one of the obvious push factors propelling the Central American to migrate.
“The gang violence fuelled by the organised trade in drugs, arms and increasingly in humans is garrotting the peace and prosperity of our communities,” he said noting that official data has shown that the Central American region “is the most violent in the world with the homicide rate five times more than the global average”.
Barrow said as a result, in the most affected communities “citizens are forced to make the Hobson choice of uprooting and fleeing the dangers terrorising the only homes they have ever known, only to have to brave that incredibly perilous journey northwards to seek a more secure future”.
The Belize Prime Minister said it was therefore imperative for the Central American countries to come collaborate much more “if we are to provide citizen safety conditions for our peoples”.
Barrow said another issue facing the region is that of climate change and urged the international community to do much more to lessen its impact on small developing countries, adding that the region is poised to deliver a high level political message at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 24) that ends in Poland later on Friday.
“There is no point in there being global acknowledgement of our region as among the most vulnerable if we will continue to be denied a proper share of the finance and resources necessary to combat that vulnerability,” he said.
Prior to the summit, Central American foreign ministers met and Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred Elrington, said Belize had accomplished several goals during its six-month stint as Presidency Pro Tempore, including strengthening relationships between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and SICA.
Guatemala is taking over the position from Belize.