Donors Conference, Group of Friends of Central America Security Strategy.
Central America Integration Efforts.
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Washington, DC, April 14, 2011.
Ambassador Adam Blackwell, Secretary for Multidimensional Security of the Organization of American States
Attempts at accomplishing Central American integration go back to 1824, not long after political independence had been achieved in the region, with the Constitution of the FederalCentralAmericanRepublic, until it was dissolved in 1848.
In the modern era, the Central American region was a pioneer in terms of integration as it established the Central American Common Market in the sixties. The first article of the Central American Integration Free Trade Agreement signed in Managua on December 13, 1960 already highlighted the need to create a customs union. This agreement also created the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) therefore creating institutions in support of regional integration.
In the eighties, the integration process suffered a setback and the region was immersed in internal conflicts, which, added to the international crisis, made that era “the lost decade”.
During the 1990’s, the peace and democratization processes permitted the development of a new phase in the process of development and integration of the region through the consolidation of peace, the establishment of the rule of law and the opening up of the economy. The Tegucigalpa protocol (1991) under which Central America Integration System (SICA) was created.
TEGUCIGALPA PROTOCOL TO THE CHARTER OF THE ORGANIZATION OF CENTRAL AMERICAN STATES (ODECA)
The Central American Integration System shall provide the institutional framework for the regional integration of Central America.
The fundamental objective of the Central American Integration System is to bring about the integration of Central America as a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development. To that end, the following objectives are hereby reaffirmed:
(a) To Consolidate democracy and strengthen its institutions on the basis of the existence of Governments elected by universal and free suffrage with secret ballot, and of unrestricted respect for human rights;
(b) To define a new regional security model based on a reasonable balance of forces, the strengthening of civilian government, the elimination of extreme poverty, the promotion of sustained development, protection of the environment, and the eradication of violence, corruption, terrorism, and trafficking in drugs and arms;
 The SICA as a system approach has the long term objective of transforming Central America in a Region of Peace, Liberty, Democracy, and Development, and is composed of elements such as intergovernmental decision making bodies, community organs, and specialized agencies.
The main intergovernmental decision making bodies are the Summit of Presidents (the Prime Minister of Belize is an observer) and the Council of Ministers. The latter includes Councils of Ministers of many branches (economy and trade, education, housing and human settlements, health, public infrastructure and transportation, etc.) and is coordinated by the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Other bodies include the Forum of Vice-Presidents, the Executive Committee, and a Consultative Committee. The latter is the body that allows participation of civil society in the process and is composed of 20 organizations that represent business, labor, academic, cooperative, peasant, indigenous, and women sectors, totaling approximately 14 million direct affiliates.
CHALLENGES FOR INTEGRATION
The challenges of the Central American Integration are those of building integration simultaneously with an insertion into a global economy. The Central American countries, after suffering from political and social instability, have to face the challenges of building democracy, strengthening of institutions, building civility and participation, and modernization of the economy.
 Principal obstacles and challenges to sustainable integration in Central America
The main medium-term development challenges currently facing the Central American region can be grouped together into four broad categories:
• Strengthening democracy, above all in terms of the lack of protection of fundamental freedoms, impunity, and the lack of transparency in public sector management and the functioning of the electoral system and political party structures, all of which put at risk the democratic progress achieved to date.
• The development and stability of the CA region, as well as the success of regional integration will depend on the CA capacity to cope with traditional and nontraditional human security threats.
• Economic vulnerability, which results in a lack of competitiveness on the part of the Central American countries due to a structural make-up that obliges them to rely heavily on exports of primary commodities and “maquiladora” industries and on remittances,
imported energy sources and tourism, which are subject to fluctuation in line with global market trends;
• Lack of social cohesion, borne out basically by the high levels of poverty and extreme poverty, highly unequal distribution of wealth and income, and limited provision of essential social services and access to them, such as health and education, for a
significant portion of the population. Budget constraints are reinforced by limited tax administration, and widespread tax evasion. The persistence of these phenomena leads to a vicious circle of poverty, the search for alternative options for survival (migration,
criminality, etc.), social conflict and economic stagnation;
The challenge to transform Central America into a modern and open sub-region depends on how a democratic culture, a transformation of the productive apparatus, and a modernization of the state are implemented in order to face globalization and to prevent conflict and promote security.
In order to move forth towards integration, the decision making process, follow-up and coordination, national implementation of regional agreements, social communication and participation of civil society, and external and cooperation relations need to be strengthened.
SECURITY AND THE CENTRAL AMERICAN INTEGRATION SYSTEM
A Treaty on Democratic Security was adopted recently which states that security is an integral part of development and takes the human being as the center, and agreements on freedom of mobilization of people through the borders, and unification of trade barriers, have also been reached.
Politically, one of the cornerstones of Central American integration is the Framework Treaty on Democratic Security and the work of the Central American Security Commission and the Security, Defense and Legal Subcommittees, the aim of which is to develop a model for democratic security in the region, through the adoption of common strategies and regional action plans for dealing with the serious threats to the security of Central American citizens. Along with the current programs such as the Regional Anti-Drugs Action Plan and the Central American Plan for Integral Cooperation to Prevent and Counteract Terrorism, there are now other more recently adopted initiatives, the Regional Plan against Organized Crime and the Regional Coordination Mechanism of Mutual Assistance in Natural Disasters.
• Environmental vulnerability, determined by the natural conditions of the region, which expose it to frequent natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and droughts) that have been accentuated over the past few decades due to the growing irrational use of natural resources, including water and forests, coupled with poor environmental
management (i.e. contamination).
These groups of problems are closely inter-related. However, they are not evenly spread throughout the region, as demonstrated by the varying levels of social exclusion. With the exception of Costa Rica, poverty affects practically half of the region’s population (or more in some cases). The informal labor market absorbs some 40% of the labor force and the level of social expenditure is insufficient to redress this balance and raise the level of human capital.
 The regional decision making process has been criticized because of the large number of mandates and the inability of following up and national implementation on the part of the governments, which leads to the second area. The integration process can not go further until the governments implement the sub-regional decisions at an operational level. That means that every sub-regional mandate has six or seven implementations. Currently there is no coordination between the regional and the national level
ROLE OF COOPERATING AGENCIES
Central America’s challenges can be most effectively addressed through economic integration and the development and implementation of a regional strategy to strengthen its institutions with effectively dealing with the transnational and national security.
Multilateral and regional organizations are an inescapable feature of global politics. Virtually all countries in the world—and Central America is not the exception– are members of at least one regional or other intergovernmental organization. Multilateral and regional organizations have traditionally been formed around economic, political, or environmental objectives, however, over the last decades these organizations have gradually penetrated into the security sphere.
The involvement and political, technical, and financial support of regional, multilateral and bilateral cooperating agencies is key in this process and the interaction between partnership and agency knowledge policies are crucial.
In order to increase efficiency and efficacy among the cooperation resources, it is important to set priorities, identify duplication of efforts, evaluate the impact of projects, and probably more importantly, to change the model of cooperation. This makes a project the transforming unit of reality. Another approach should make the problem to solve be the driving unit of reality and a many-to-many model.
These projects, in general, are of regional or sub regional scope or benefit a limited number of countries, so that initiatives applied in one country can be replicated; good practices disseminated and mistakes avoided; and problems and solutions approached from a regional or sub regional perspective. Moreover, some of these projects address topics commonly known as “regional public goods”, which will benefit (or affect) more than one country and occupy an intermediate space between the national and global public goods
ROLE OF THE OAS/SMS
The Organization of American States (OAS) brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. It is the region’s premier forum for multilateral dialogue and concerted action.
At the core of the OAS mission is an unequivocal commitment to democracy, as expressed in the Inter-American Democratic Charter: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” Building on this foundation, the OAS works to promote good governance, strengthen human rights, foster peace and security, expand trade, and address the complex problems caused by poverty, drugs and corruption. Through decisions made by its political bodies and programs carried out by its General Secretariat, the OAS promotes greater inter-American cooperation and understanding.
In order to successfully concrete the Central American Integration initiatives, there is an urgent need to develop certain “rules of engagement”, guided by the OAS, in order to strengthen the political and technical capacity of Central American institutions and people spearheading the integration.
The OAS can contribute to this process by:
a. Establishing a Cadre of SAGES
To ensure that the projects undertaken will successfully address political reconciliation and inequality in Central America, the OAS proposes an ADVISORY COUNCIL of ex-political multidisciplinary and high level officials (at least from the Northern Triangle Countries) This council can oversee and follow up the process and advice, re-orient, give permanent follow-up (regardless of change of governments), promote and provide better accountability of political bodies which would lead to greater trust in political institutions by citizens as well as greater trust between countries
This idea could materialize through an agreement between OAS representative/a representative of the council of advisor and representatives of SICA to present merits of political reconciliation in Central America—these ideas can then be brought to other SICA member country representatives
b. Change the model of cooperation from one-to –one to many –to-many
The model that has prevailed in Central America is a one-to-one (donor agency/executing agency) due to the priorities of the donor vs. the priorities of the executor. The many-to-many model involves the construction of a systemic process in which the OAS can advice network of donors and network of executing countries and conjointly establish priorities, partners and implementation mechanisms
c. In the SECURITY ARENA Help the countries set regional (and not national) priorities
Arrive at a draft agreement on a joint work plan for Central America between the International Community of donors and countries that will identify priority activities at the national, sub regional, and regional level, to support the application of the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action, based on the FIVE PILLARS established by the OAS/ SMS, which establish a comprehensive, orderly and strategic approach to the security problem in the region. The OAS already has mandates that promote such programs—but the OAS, through SMS can highlight their importance to Central American countries in hopes that they will focus attention/resources on these issues. This can be achieved by guiding the countries and donors to :
- 1. Adapt the Regional Plan to the Central American reality.
- 2. Identify synergies and gaps between the plans / national priorities and the Regional Plan.
- 3. Identify mechanisms for implementing the plan at the national and sub regional levels.
- 4. Identify the Central American contribution to the implementation of the Regional Plan.
- 5. Identify various sub regional vehicles (e.g. networks, entities) that can facilitate implementation of the plan and its lines of action.