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Upholding the promises of the Cartagena Declaration

Posted on 21 Jun 2024

Written by Danish Refugee Council

Danish Refugee Council (DRC) statement Cartagena +40 Process 

The Cartagena +40 process arrives at a critical moment. The region is experiencing an unprecedented displacement and protection crisis.  An estimated 25 million people are displaced across the region and at least 6 million who are estimated to be in need of international protection have fled persecution, generalized violence, internal conflict, massive violations of human rights, the effects of disasters and climate change and other situations that hider the full enjoyment of political, civil, social, economic, and cultural rights.  

The Cartagena Declaration and its embedded political process is celebrated around the world as a landmark legal framework to strengthen the protection of refugees. Beyond the expansion of the refugee definition in Art 1 of the 1951 Convention, the Cartagena Declaration has provided a dynamic framework and has been implemented in multiple jurisdictions across the region based on joint plans of action in the past forty years.   

From a global perspective, DRC’s Secretary General, Charlotte Slente said, “in a time where the global asylum system is increasingly under pressure and the rights of forcibly displaced people are restricted and curtailed, the Cartagena +40 process serves as a welcome reminder that another and more inclusive way is possible.” 

“For forty years the Cartagena Declaration has represented one of the most progressive frameworks for refugee protection showcasing the tradition of human rights, cooperation, and solidarity of the region. We look forward to seeing the spirit of Cartagena upheld in the coming negotiations to prioritize the protection of displaced populations in the region and their effective access to durable solutions” DRC’s Regional Operations Director for Latin America, Yann Cornic, adds. 

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) welcomes the commitment of C+40 Process led by Chile in including civil society and refugee-led organisations throughout the consultation rounds. As the C+40 Consultation rounds end today in Bogota, DRC would like to provide a set of recommendations based on our humanitarian and protection expertise in the region: 

1: Safeguard access to international protection and reverse policies of securitization of people seeking safety.

The protection of people on the move and in statelessness is a key challenge for all countries and requires the operationalization of the solidarity and cooperation spirit of Cartagena. Forcibly displaced populations face increasing risks throughout the displacement route that are exacerbating their vulnerabilities and they often face serious human rights violations.

Policies that address human mobility only from a security perspective and fail to consider human rights increase the risks of the most vulnerable populations and expose them to violence, coercion, and deliberate deprivation. Access to asylum procedures and protection services at the border and throughout the displacement route are key to meet the international protection needs of displaced populations. 

Access to remedies and assistance, including legal aid, should be also prioritized to ensure the implementation of the Cartagena commitments in respect of and in complementarity with International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and International Refugee Law.

We also encourage States to continue strengthening their asylum systems and other forms of protection with differentiated processes that acknowledge the age, language, ethnic, racial, and SOGIESC diversities of the region. Complementary pathways and other forms of temporary protection and regular stay based on human rights are paramount for protection but should not replace access to international protection in accordance with the centrality of the pro homine principle of the Declaration.

2: Invest in the inclusion and integration through alternative, comprehensive, and durable solutions in host communities to ensure an equal access to rights and promote social cohesion and self-resilience.

The inclusion and integration of refugees and asylum seekers cannot be done by one country alone but relies on solidarity and responsibility sharing across and outside the region.

Effective inclusion and integration go beyond the recognition of refugee status, access to temporary documentation, and other forms of legal stay.

It requires that multiple layers of society from state institutions, private sectors, and civil society adopt a differentiated approach that overcomes the administrative and behavioral barriers that impede the integration of refugees and asylum seekers in all aspects of society.

Investments in education, health, employment, and other social protection systems through international cooperation are paramount to achieve durable solutions.

3: Address international protection needs resulting from climate change and disaster-related displacement in the C+40 Action Plan and in national asylum systems.

Climate change and disaster–related displacement is already happening throughout the region and will likely increase in the period covered by the C+40 Action Plan. 

Though displacement is seldom driven by climate change/disasters only the Cartagena Declaration provides an important legal framework to address such situations.

Decision makers must proactively engage on how risks of harm arising from disasters and climate change contexts could lead to  non-refoulement obligations.

In a context of escalating impacts of climate change, States are invited to incorporate such considerations in national asylum systems for both slow-onset and sudden-onset environmental change and disasters and resulting displacement that might require prima facie considerations.

4: Address the root causes of displacement through international cooperation and a regional human rights approach.

The C+40 Plan of Action cannot be achieved without recognizing the root causes for displacement in the region, including the importance to address human rights violations in countries of origin, economic and social inequality and the need for adaptation and mitigation to climate change and disasters.


These challenges will not be resolved without political will of governments across the region, as well as joint efforts between multiple stakeholders across and beyond the region in providing financial and technical support to the most affected communities.

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