Monday, February 27, 2012

Raining Challenges

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Map: Geographic Guide
While there is focus on human security and good governance within the framework of the Central America and Mexico Security Strategy Action Plan, its implementation has been sketchy and the concept of human security applied in a rather limited manner. Human security is a powerful concept and responds remarkably well to the needs of development. So there is a need to continue to push for the adoption of the concept as the guiding principle for development and humanitarian work in the Central America. 

The conceptual framework of human security is wide and yields to various forms of wants and insecurities that people in the region face and therefore is specifically relevant to the region. Some of the common challenges of the region include:
  • Organized drug trafficking,
  • Trafficking and smuggling in human beings,
  • Trans-border organized crime,
  • Weaker governance institutions and political polarizations,
  • Climate change and natural disasters,
  • Poverty and poor health,
  • Lack of public services such as education, health, legal-juridical, and security and so on.

These challenges are compounded by:
  • The poor economic condition in the countries and extremely weak economic governance institutions, which are unable to support economic growth and stability (except for Costa Rica and Panama which seem to be moving in the right direction);
  • Complicity between drug mafias and cartels and the political and governance actors;
  • High level of corruption and money laundering;
  • Weaker business and consequent extremely poor revenue base; and
  • Fluid borders across the countries.

All these problems require wider partnerships among development and humanitarian actors as well as with the political actors and business conglomerates. This is essentially to ensure that the linkages among the above cited wants and insecurities could be better addressed. Such partnership formation would be the basis for addressing human security issues in the region. But it requires the countries and their governments to have the capacity to be stable institutions, policies, and skills to administer reform and development.

Most of the above mentioned human-made challenges have the issues of poor livelihoods, weak human capital and natural disasters at the core. The Central American countries are among the top 20 most vulnerable to natural with little capacity to cope. Hurricanes, floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent and contribute to the growth of poverty, malnutrition and poor health. Again, these humongous issues could be addressed only through collaborations because these require improved understanding of how issues of drugs, crimes, poor justice, etc are inter-linked among multiple actors. These call for investment in environment, food, livelihoods, health, education and such other basic needs. This form of response to the challenges will address the issue of youth who have been particularly affected by the lack of economic opportunities, a phenomenon linked to gangs (or the Maras). This would also entail partnering with bi-laterals and donors who have a stake in environmental and livelihoods work, ministries and government institutions dealing with these issues and the wider public media.

Alongside, the issues of organized crime and terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling in migrants, and the basic lack of rule of law also need to be looked into. Strengthening capacities of law enforcement agencies, preventing money laundering and promoting capacity to counter terrorism, border security and regulation of migration would go along well with the efforts to address issues of poor livelihoods, weak human capital and natural disasters.

The above-mentioned issues are increasingly becoming trans-regional in character and migration, though irregular, represents about 15% of their GDP.  It is for this reason that joint engagement in policy and programming around the issues of border control and migration by the Central American countries is crucial. Migrant smugglers and human traffickers take advantage of poor economic situation and uneducated and unemployed youth seeking employment abroad and make the issues of security and border control all the more complex.

The political leadership in the region seem to be aware of these issues and have acted jointly every now and then. Formation of Sistema de Integración Centroamericana, the International Commission for Central American Recovery and Development, Central American Parliament, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the Central American Common Market are some of the examples. Yet, these bodies have not been effective in the same measure in all the Central American Countries, largely due to the domestic politics and leadership related issues in the member countries. A long way to go!

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