An Exodus on the Eve of the Global Compact on Migration

10 Guideposts for Humane Migration Governance. A contribution by Allianza Americas.

Image: of ©Evelyn Andrade, Alianza Americas

What began in October as a caravan of a few dozen Hondurans fleeing political persecution quickly grew into a transnational mobilization of thousands of families, and individuals—and a contentious international debate over human beings’ rights to seek refuge from escalating violence and poverty. Despite the obvious humanitarian concerns that such a large movement of people should generate, this exodus of asylum-seekers from Central America has garnered international attention largely because U.S. President Donald Trump used the migrants’ plight to bolster his administration’s anti-immigrant platform in the last stretch towards the U.S. Midterm elections.

The mass exodus caught the imagination of thousands of Hondurans who are desperate to flee escalating government repression, crushing economic inequality, inhumane living conditions, and ongoing criminal activity by drug cartels and gangs. The notion of fleeing together, keeping each other safe, and avoiding the human smuggling rings created a powerful magnet for people to join the caravan. More than a carefully planned action, the caravan should be understood as a spontaneous adaptation to desperate circumstances.

Over the past two years, many countries have been working within the framework of the United Nations to develop Global Compacts for “safe, orderly and regular migration” and “functional humanitarian protections” for migrants and refugees. As the caravans of Central Americans have moved northward, they have exposed the yawning gap that separates the world of politicians, bureaucrats and diplomats from the daily realities of people who seek a way out of increasingly dire conditions. This caravan, and the negative response it has sparked from politicians, serve as stark reminders of the political hurdles that must be overcome in order to create effective international regimes that actually protect the rights of people on the move across borders.

As organizations and individuals committed to justice, equity and a better way of life for communities across the Americas, we need to move beyond the immediate crisis to analyze the structural conditions of oppression that underpin it. On the eve of the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration, region-specific perspectives are all the more crucial to situate the unique challenges of our landscapes and to define the elements of the future we seek.

Structural Challenges

  • Economic inequality, as measured by the profoundly unjust way in which income and wealth are distributed in the US, Latin America and the rest of the world. This economic reality is reinforced by a broad range of public policies adopted over the past few decades.
  • The prevalence of white supremacy, as the foundation of most forms of racism around the world. In the past few decades, racist prejudice has also combined with profound fear and hatred directed at foreigners. In countries, including the US, laws passed in recent decades have institutionalized racism and xenophobia.
  • The newly strengthened prejudice on the basis of gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation, which builds upon the long trajectory of patriarchy and male dominance.
  • The profound distrust of representative democracy and the institutions that represent it. Voters around the world have lost confidence in political parties and government in general, as bodies capable of solving problems. As a result, a new generation of demagogues are exploiting people’s legitimate complaints, and rising to political power using fear as the main fuel to propel their carriers.
  • A predominant ideology that values individualism over community and perpetuates the notion that the profit-driven private sector holds the solution to all human challenges. This ideology limits our ability to imagine a different approach to economic, social and cultural development strategies and systems.

The question of human mobility weaves through all of these issues. Rethinking the value and role of human mobility in the migratory circuit that links the Caribbean, Central America, and North America must be a key element of this new paradigm for regional community wellbeing in our hemisphere. Insofar as the international community will move forward with implementation of a Global Migration Compact, they must also take these regional challenges into account.

Ten Guideposts for Well-Being

The following ten areas mark a path toward a long-term vision for transformation in our hemisphere. Getting there will require a mix of urgency, patience, pressure, and creativity. It will require both national laws and effective regional and global governance. These initial pillars are mutually reinforcing, and if simultaneously advanced, they will lead us to fulfilling, sustainable and welcoming societies.

  1. Well-educated populations. Starting with pre-school and extending all the way to the university, including technical and vocational careers, an education where there is a favorable environment for constant innovation and creativity, as well as equal opportunities for all of society’s diverse populations.
  2. Healthy individuals and families and policies that guarantee the right to health care to everyone, independent of where that person was born, or where they live.
  3. Basic infrastructure for human wellbeing (housing, drinking water, management of waste waters, energy, access to virtual networks, etc.), as well robust public infrastructure for economic activity (highways, public transportation, airports, maritime ports, electric energy generators, etc.) that is managed in an environmentally responsible manner that mitigates global climate change.
  4. Systems to guarantee safety and security that are rooted in public trust. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live without fear of persecution or violence. For those who find themselves unable to live in safety in their home countries, we must have policies that provide humanitarian protections and welcome those in need.
  5. Humane, common sense-driven and visionary policies for managing human mobility that maximize opportunities for all and ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in migration in the policy spaces that impact their lives at local, national, regional and global levels.
  6. Decent well-paid jobs and the right to collective organizing. The principle of decent, dignified compensation should be a baseline for all forms of employment, including historically oppressed jobs such as domestic work, childcare, elder care, and agricultural work. We recognize the role of organized workers in addressing power asymmetries and protecting workers’ rights.
  7. Effective civic engagement that holds policy-makers accountable to these goals from the ground up, and across borders.
  8. Responsible environmental policies that recognize historical debts to people of color, women, and poor people, and that respond to the long and short-term impacts of climate change.
  9. Fair and rigorous tax policies that favor equitable, sustainable development and penalize predatory practices that harm the common good.
  10. Good democratic governance policies and practices including transparency and accountability, at all levels of government. Good democratic practices start long before, and continue long after casting a vote at the ballot box. Building and implementing new mechanisms for exercising transnational citizenship will require innovation and creativity.

Taking the first steps toward this vision

Moving these ideas from concept to reality will require social and political organizing at all levels, from local to global. A key step will be to recognize and build the organizing capacity of migrant communities so they can advocate in all the spheres of decision-making affecting their lives. We must also work together—across issues, across borders in creative new ways. Collective action spaces, such as the Global Coalition on Migration and Women in Migration Network, can help move the needle. These ten guideposts point a way forward, but we will not get there overnight. In the meantime, we should seek any and all steps forward that move us closer to the goal. Harmonizing our efforts to dream big, and build power to implement those dreams is the path toward the better future for communities across the region, and around the world.



Amy Shannon is Senior Advisor at ALIANZA AMERICAS. Its mission is to bring about a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for Latino immigrant communities living in the United States and across the Americas. By working transnationally with partners from civil society and government, organized labor and faith-based communities, they hope to create a more dignified and just way of life for all people living in the Americas.


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