More than 15 legislators from the Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – met in San Salvador, El Salvador, for a two-day conference to advance a regional legislative agenda on security and human rights. The Northern Triangle region faces the highest homicide rate globally, and transnational criminal networks make collaboration between the three countries a critical element in efforts to improve security.
The legislators who attended the September 24 to 25 forum represented more than eight political parties from across the ideological spectrum. This was the sixth regional interparliamentary forum facilitated by NDI, and it was designed to create an opportunity for legislators to discuss challenges that affect all three countries, including migration, criminal organizations and security.
In 2016, the three countries and the United States formed the Alliance for Prosperity, which set benchmarks for each country in four key areas: security, prosperity, governance and human rights. The benchmarks must be met in order to receive aid through the alliance. The United States has continued its partnership on these topics, hosting leaders of the Northern Triangle countries in Miami in June 2017. The majority of aid has supported the security and judicial sectors of each country. National efforts to develop country-specific plans, such as the Honduras 2020 or Safe El Salvador (El Salvador Seguro), to align domestic institutions to meet benchmarks originated within the executive branches of each country with no clear role for the legislatures. The role of the legislature in advancing the goals of the Alliance for Prosperity was a key question the forum sought to address.
Various efforts exist to align legislative priorities within Central America, including the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), which is made up of legislators from each country in the region. However, these bodies do not focus exclusively on the unique challenges that face the Northern Triangle subregion. Without detracting from broader initiatives, legislators desired a Northern Triangle subregional body to serve as an effective vehicle to advance actions in line with the Plan for Prosperity. Through the NDI-supported interparliamentary forums, legislators are creating official mechanisms to discuss and take action on the plan within their respective legislatures. For example, legislators signed a declaration to create a tri-national commission, as well as national congressional working groups, to develop and advocate for legislation in line with the plan.
With temporary protected status for El Salvadorans and Hondurans set to end in the U.S. in 2019 and 2020, national governments are planning for the reintegration of thousands of citizens from abroad. During the Northern Triangle forum, legislators exchanged experiences on how migration is addressed within each country’s national legal framework with the goal of developing regional shared standards and approaches.
Following dialogue, legislators signed a declaration outlining shared norms on human rights and migration, which include:
- taking steps to put regional agreements, such as the SICA Agreement on the Protection and Development of the Human Rights of Migrants and their Families (Protección y Desarrollo de los Derechos Humanos de las Personas Migrantes y sus Familias) into force;
- the creation of a standardized system to collect information and statistics on migration for the subregion and;
- efforts to increase budgets for consular services to protect migrants detained abroad.
The declaration demonstrates the commitment of legislators from a multitude of parties within each country to continue to collaborate on the most pressing challenges and serves as guidance for legislative action in each country.
The regional interparliamentary forum is part of a program supported by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).