Thank you so much for the invitation.
Mennonite Central Committee, or MCC, is a ministry of Anabaptist churches responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice. While our work began in 1920 assisting refugees fleeing the former Soviet Union, today MCC works worldwide. Last year alone, we supported over 300,000 people on the move.
MCC welcomes this opportunity to share our experiences and recommendations around global forced migration.
Committee members may be more familiar with our work on refugee resettlement as MCC helped to resettle one-third of Canada's blended visa office-referred refugees in 2017. Resettlement work in Canada and Canada's role as a leader in encouraging resettlement globally is of vital importance.
MCC consistently hears from our partners internationally, however, that addressing the root causes of forced migration must be part of any solution.
While MCC works on the theme of migration worldwide, our most coordinated regional work currently take place in Latin America, where I recently worked. I will share several migration push factors, the response of our partner organizations, and then several recommendations to the Canadian government, especially focusing on our partners in central America, Mexico and Colombia who keep us informed of migration trends as they unfold.
We are hearing reports that migration in the region is forced by hostile environments that are seedbeds for violence. These include severe socio-economic inequality, illicit economies coupled with corruption and weak institutions, and rising levels of militarization.
Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. More than half of the region's productive land is held by the top 1% of the largest farms. This is coupled with a growing economic dependence on extractivism, including agro-industries, mineral resources and hydrocarbons. This has led to a decrease in local food production and access to safe water, which are factors that encourage migration, especially when combined with threats of violence over control of land or development.
While Colombia holds the record for one of the highest numbers of IDPs in the world, at seven million, internal displacement is increasing in central America and in Mexico.
This inequality destabilizes the region by contributing to the growth of the illegal economies. Even when organized crime is not a direct driver of violence, it may indirectly impact violence by corrupting state institutions and reducing access to security and justice mechanisms along with health and education. High unemployment and exclusion drive youth gang membership, leading to increased urban violence. In turn, migration itself fuels instability. In border regions, the illegal economy around migration has become more profitable than drug trafficking.
Increased militarization to combat organized crime combined with state institutions unresponsive to human rights violations exacerbate violence. Increased security policies have led to extrajudicial killings and a crackdown on non-violent protest.
Latin America is currently the most dangerous place in the world to be a human rights or an environmental defender. Militarized borders and routes, especially around Mexico's borders, contribute to increasing migrant deaths and disappearances as migrants and asylum seekers take lesser-known routes to avoid official detection and end up in the hands of cartels or in extreme desert conditions.
Foreign development and economic interventions may inadvertently cause harm in these complex scenarios. Throughout the region, however, MCC works with local partner organizations that seek to address this complexity.
I will share only a small sampling of this diverse and creative work.
For example, in Colombia, our partner Sembrandopaz accompanies over 40 displaced and returned farming communities in a reconciliation and human rights project. They specifically work to bring youth from divided communities together through sport for leadership development and non-violent conflict resolution. In a parallel process, community leaders have formed a reparation and advocacy movement to collectively work to stay on their lands and develop alternative economic projects.
Anti-corruption work in Honduras led by the Association for a More Just Society uses evidence-based trackers to monitor government contracts and spending in education and health. Through their work, they have seen an increase in the number of days children spend in the classroom.
Voces Mesoamericanas in southern Mexico is part of a network of organizations—including in central America—that monitors border violence. This network also documents internal displacement and can provide early warning signs of areas where conflict may be likely to break out, and where migration flows may increase.
In response to these contextual dynamics and migration push factors, MCC offers the following recommendations to the Canadian government, not only for Latin America but for all areas where forced migration is taking place globally. First, increase investments in conflict prevention; second, use a “do no harm” lens; third, have partnerships with diverse actors; and fourth, continue leadership in global agreements.
We encourage increased investment in conflict prevention initiatives, especially local peace-building and mediation initiatives across different sectors and faiths. When mapping drivers of conflict, it is crucial to identify the strengths and capacities that already exist at a local level and can be leveraged to build sustainable peace.
We also encourage the government to integrate a conflict sensitivity lens—i.e., do no harm—across all programming to ensure that actions do not inadvertently exacerbate conflict dynamics or socio-economic inequalities. Canada should focus on resourcing non-military means of addressing insecurity around the globe. MCC also encourages Canada to increase our diplomatic efforts around conflict prevention and strengthen non-violent alternatives to the use of force.
We also encourage Canada to engage in partnerships with diverse actors, with a particular focus on supporting grassroots partners, enhancing local solidarity networks and promoting mechanisms for co-operation between actors on different levels, especially in situations of protracted internal displacement. We encourage more opportunities for funding, recognizing the important role that local organizations play in meeting the needs of IDPs.
MCC also encourages greater co-operation and work between the IRCC and GAC to build both departments' capacities for responding creatively to the full array of complex international issues that face our world today around forced migration. We encourage Canada to continue to show leadership on the implementation of the global compact on migration and the global compact on refugees, bringing in a root causes and prevention lens to these global agreements, along with a continued focus on resettlement globally.
There will be more information about all of these different topics in the written submission that is in translation currently.