FAO Director-General in Mexico: "Migration must be optional and safe"

José Graziano da Silva opens Mesoamerican meeting on migration

2 July 2019, Mexico City – A joint action program to promote rural development and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger so that migration becomes an option and not a necessity, is the objective of a High-level meeting on migration, development and food security in Mesoamerica that kicked-off in Mexico City today.

"Migration must be a voluntary act, and not a forced last resort,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at the event. “Poverty, hunger, climate change, insecurity - that is, severe underdevelopment - create a perfect storm in which thousands of people see only one way out: to emigrate. The fundamental solution to forced migration is development,” he told over 100 delegates from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico participating in a two-day meeting to discuss a joint proposal to tackle migration challenges in Mesoamerica through a comprehensive development plan. 

The FAO chief welcomed the commitment signed by heads of state of the four countries on 1 December 2018 to promote a comprehensive development plan to tackle irregular migration and pledged FAO's support to their governments to promote the development of rural territories, which are the main centers of origin of migrants.

For his part, the Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico, Víctor Villalobos Arámbula, said: "In Mexico we are convinced that addressing the root causes of the migratory phenomenon is a precondition for it to be optional and not forced."

"This is the Mexican way, as President López Obrador has called it, and we are working to demonstrate to the whole world that this phenomenon can be prevented and controlled if there is development, employment and well-being for everyone in the places of origin," Villalobos added.

He announced that the joint plan to address the migration phenomenon will include actions to generate development and opportunities at the local level.

In a message on behalf of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maximiliano Reyes, thanked the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (CELAC) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) for their determined support and commitment to the development of the region.

He also welcomed FAO’s support to the countries’ specific policies and instruments to promote alternatives to migration. The Undersecretary emphasized that no country can face this common challenge by itself, and he stressed the need for a regional solution.

"We are convinced that political will and joint efforts will allow us to advance on the right path and we will show the world that migration should be option and, in no way, is it a threat," he said.

Other participants at the event included Vinicio Cerezo, from the Central American Integration System (SICA); Jorge Alberto Benítez Portillo, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras; Nineth Escobar Cabrera, Financial Administrative Vice Minister of the Ministry of Social Development of the Ministry of Guatemala; and Carlos Enrique Cáceres Chávez, Ambassador of El Salvador to Mexico.

The action program will consider, among other aspects, rural climate resilience and the adaptation of agriculture to climate change; the creation of agricultural and non-agricultural employment; the generation of income and the promotion of family farming.

It will be in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact on Migration, adopted by the United Nations Assembly in December 2018.

The Central American Dry Corridor must be a priority

FAO Director-General called on governments to give greater support to the Central American Dry Corridor, an area of great climatic vulnerability and high rates of poverty, whose deterioration is driving migration.

According to FAO and the World Food Programme, more than 2 million people have seen their livelihoods severely affected, and 1.4 million of them are currently in need of food assistance as a result of last year's climatic effects.

In El Salvador, FAO is supporting the implementation of the RECLIMA project, which obtained financing from the Green Climate Fund and will benefit 225 000 people.

"We need to ensure that all municipalities in all Dry Corridor countries have programmes focused on climate resilience for rural populations," Graziano da Silva said.

Foto: ©FAO/Americas
Through the Mesoamérica Sin Hambre program, FAO is implementing a series of projects in Guatemala so that local family farmers improve access to high nutritional value foods and diversify their income sources. These include rabbit breeding, aquaculture, agriculture in protected environments and the elaboration of handicrafts with native crops.