Armand Arton opened the session describing the panorama of the refugee crisis that Latin America is facing as one in which political instability and climate change have caused the human mobility of hundreds of millions of individuals. As highlighted by Luis Almagro, Latin America has experienced six or seven refugee crises in the last year alone—the most notable being those of Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The work of the Organization of American States (OAS) includes communicating best practices between countries and implementing—and even financing—projects to fulfill the most urgent needs of refugees. However, financing poses a key impediment to achieving greater impact and is becoming even harder as countries concentrate their financial resources in order to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
“If countries are usually stressed when it comes to refugee crises, in present times of COVID-19, the problems multiply. We are facing the worst scenario ever in the hemisphere,”Luis Almagro Lemes.
Latin America is going through the worst time in its history: a refugee crisis coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a social and economic crisis never before experienced in the hemisphere. Looking at the Venezuelan crisis, in particular, Almagro issued a plea for the greater involvement and partnership of financial institutions, citing the exponentially higher resources received by Syria compared with Venezuela. He urged for more flexible financial solutions in order to allow the hemisphere to manage the financial crisis, particularly in terms of acquiring new loans and re-paying them. Almagro emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships as a way to anchor recovery to the creation of wealth—this point was seconded by Arton, who stressed that refugee crises are long-term situations that require viable business structures.
As highlighted by Almagro, the OAS has been working to heighten international awareness around Venezuela’s refugee crisis. He noted, however, that it is much easier for countries to become aware of a crisis resulting from armed conflict than from one that is being self-inflicted by the government onto its own people. We must keep denouncing the crisis in Venezuela and not make it easy for countries to simply appease relations with a dictatorship that has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the hemisphere.
Key takeaways & next steps:
Countries should avoid appeasing relations with a dictatorship that has caused great harm to its people.
The private sector plays a key role in solving refugee crises by creating business opportunities that allow people to be included in the economy.
Latin America requires more flexible financial solutions that will create sustainable solutions to the crisis.