This policy brief explores the commendable policy efforts made by successive Colombia administrations to pursue economic and social integration of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the face of crisis and calls for the international community to increase its financial support for Colombia’s response to the Venezuelan migration situation.
Committed in the Face of Crisis: Lessons from Colombia’s People-Centered Migration and Protection Policy
New York University’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC), Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies, and the Permanent Missions to the UN of the Government of Canada, the Government of Colombia, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, are delighted to invite you to the event: Committed in the Face of Crisis: Lessons from Colombia’s People-Centered Migration and Protection Policy.
This hybrid event will take place between 10:00am and 11:30am EDT on May 17, 2023
This is an invitation-only event, please reach out to Nate Edwards (nate.edwards [at] nyu.edu) if you are interested in attending this event.
Note: Simultaneous English-Spanish translation will be provided for this event.
Session Description and Objectives
This discussion, entitled Committed in the Face of Crisis: Lessons from Colombia’s People-Centered Migration and Protection Policy aims to bring together UN-member states, UN agencies, funders, and non-government migration, protection, and justice experts to discuss Colombia’s migration and protection policy. It will explore the commendable policy efforts made by successive Colombia administrations to pursue economic and social integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the face of crisis and the challenges around securing adequate international support for this unprecedented effort. In doing so, it will also explore the implications of the Colombia case for broader regional and global displacement policies and forums.
Hosted by New York University’s Center on International Cooperation (CIC) Humanitarian Crises and Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies Programs, co-organized by the Colombian Permanent Mission to the UN, co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands Permanent Mission to the UN, and held at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the UN, this event will explore the following topics:
Colombia houses the largest number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and is actively enacting one of the world’s most progressive migration and protection policies. What can the international community learn from their experience?
- What confluence of factors made this policy response possible?
- How did Colombia maintain a consistent approach across three presidencies, COVID-19, and international economic hardship?
- How was public support and political will navigated by successive administrations?
- What has been the role of civil society organizations?
- How has Colombia engaged with gender inequalities, the rights of women and girls, and other human rights dimensions amidst the migration crisis?
- What lessons can we apply from Colombia’s specific policies (i.e. PEP, EPTV) elsewhere in the world?
- What does Colombia need to do to ensure successful integration in the long-term?
Colombia has pursued this policy response with limited international support and requires greater financing. What else can be done at the global and regional level to increase financing and technical support for Colombia’s policy response?
- What barriers must be overcome to achieve this?
- How might this influence other host country migration and protection policies?
- What lessons can we draw for financing global refugee responses more broadly?
The Venezuelan migration situation in Latin America is increasingly a regional challenge. The need for peer exchange among countries facing similar situations when it comes to migration and displacement is important.
- What can other host countries learn from Colombia’s migration protection policy?
- What mechanisms and forums are already in place to facilitate regional collaboration? What is needed?
- What challenges and opportunities does the region face when it comes to financing?
This event is part of Justice for Refugees, a joint initiative of CIC’s Humanitarian Crises and Pathfinders Justice for All programs. Launched in 2022, this initiative brings together actors in the humanitarian and justice sectors to demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing refugees’ needs.
There are over seven million Venezuelan migrants and refugees globally, nearly 2.5 million of which live in neighboring Colombia. Distinct from most migrant and refugee stories in recent years, Colombia has responded to this influx with a suite of policies aimed at integrating Venezuelans, rather than deterring them. This response has been roundly welcomed by the global migrant and refugee protection communities, which now wait in hope for signs that the Colombia model will not only continue to succeed, but prove replicable elsewhere.
Colombia’s commitment to progressive migration and protection policy has remained consistent, even as contexts have changed and presidents have transitioned. Across three presidencies and in the face of COVID-19, with its economic consequences, the principle of integration has guided Colombia’s migration policy response—recognizing this as a long-term solution. Focused on regularization pathways and access to the labor market, policies such as the Special Permit of Permanence (PEP) and the Statute for temporary protection of Venezuelan Migrants (ETPV) have created durable mechanisms for migrants to access work, healthcare, and social services. Meanwhile Border Mobility Cards have formalized circular migration practices by those who live along the Colombian-Venezuelan border. Such people-centered policies demonstrate a recognition of the individual challenges that Venezuelans face in their migration journeys, and respond to their needs. They also take as a starting point that, when properly supported, migrants and refugees can offer an economic benefit to host countries. The international community can learn from Colombia’s experience as their integration strategy continues to evolve.
At the same time, however, Colombia’s migration and refugee policy, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has rightfully lauded as, “the most important humanitarian gesture” in decades, is facing numerous challenges. Recent years of escalating border violence, growing poverty and food insecurity, strained social systems, domestic discontent, and heightened xenophobia—all aggravated by the global pandemic and an unprecedented economic shock—have given rise to a new constellation of hardship. Successful integration policy requires a recognition of the interdependent social, economic, and political challenges that the country faces. And therefore, it requires cross-sector collaboration to create effective policy solutions. Experts across agencies and disciplines need to come together to apply a humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach to long-term strategies. Given the ongoing challenges, the country will need to continue to innovate and adapt its migration and protection strategy in order to ensure its success.
While Colombia has remained committed to its integration policy, it has not received adequate international support and funding. While existing commitments from the World Bank, and those recently made by the United States, Canada and the European Union are important, further resources are still necessary. Additional international support is urgently needed both to enable Colombia’s sustained commitment to Venezuelan refugees and migrants, and to signal to the world that such a rights-based act of solidarity does not only rely on national efforts but will also garner international backing.
As migration and forced displacement continues in the region, more and more Latin American countries are faced with the same challenges as Colombia. Taking Colombia as a starting point, the time for peer exchange on best practices in migration and protection response has never been more important. Countries can benefit from exchanging lessons on the successes they’ve had, opportunities they see, and the ongoing challenging they face.
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