On the 40th Anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration

HIAS is honored to be a participant in the Cartagena +40 process,* led by Chile, which addresses unprecedented displacement and protection need in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. It is estimated that by the end of this year, 25 million people will be displaced in the LAC region, after fleeing persecution, generalized violence, internal conflict, massive human rights violations, statelessness, and the effects of natural disasters and climate change.

The Cartagena +40 process presents a critical opportunity for governments to renew their commitments to protect refugees across the region, 4o years after the Cartagena Declaration was originally adopted in 1984.  It also expands the definition of a refugee to include those fleeing the threats of generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violations of human rights, and other circumstances which have become more prevalent in the region in recent years.

Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President and CEO, gave testimony at a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today saying, “While the number of displaced persons in the region keeps growing, the protection space and the response to them keep shrinking, placing additional burdens on host communities and on displaced persons themselves. This process offers a crucial opportunity for governments to reaffirm their commitments to people who have been forcibly displaced.”

HIAS calls on governments throughout the LAC region to heed the following calls to actions, as the negotiation phase continues:

  • Address Root Causes: To effectively address displacement, countries must acknowledge its root causes, including violence, conflict, human rights violations, and climate-related disasters. A comprehensive, whole-society approach is required, incorporating the support of financial institutions and the private sector.
  • Promote Safe and Legal Pathways: Ensuring access to safe and lawful pathways is crucial but should not replace the region’s asylum tradition. National asylum systems must be safeguarded, and complementary pathways should be improved to provide alternatives for those in need of protection. These pathways must be expanded to include other nationalities and reinforced by effective protection safeguards.
  • Address Displacement Caused by Climate Change: The intersection between climate change, disasters, and displacement can no longer be treated as a future phenomenon. The impacts of climate change, particularly in Central America and the Caribbean, necessitate committed actions to protect those affected. The Cartagena Declaration becomes an important legal framework to address these situations. This includes implementing specific measures to support and provide protection remedies to those affected, including adopting and reforming regulations and policies.
  • Ensure Effective Coordination: Improved cooperation among states is essential to implement human-rights-based policies and programs that effectively protect refugees. Coordination among governments, UN agencies, international NGOs, and local actors will ensure timely and effective responses to the needs of the population. Putting civil society actors at the forefront of strategic talks should be prioritized across all phases of the process.
  • Invest in Host Countries: Investing in education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and social services in host countries remains crucial. These investments not only benefit refugees but also contribute to the overall development and stability of host communities, which are being affected by an array of compounded challenges, including violence, disasters, and food insecurity. Investments in education, health, employment, and other social protection systems through international cooperation are paramount to achieving durable solutions.

HIAS remains committed to contributing to these discussions and urges all stakeholders involved in the Cartagena +40 process to consider these recommendations in the upcoming negotiation.


* The Cartagena +40 process is an initiative commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration, aimed at reaffirming commitments to the protection of forcibly displaced people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Led by Chile and launched during the Global Refugee Forum in December 2023, it addresses current displacement challenges through consultations and the development of a new declaration and action plan in December 2024. 

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