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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration > What We Are Saying > Other Releases > 2004

U.S. Statement as an Observer at the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration, Mexico City, Mexico, November 15-16, 2004

November 15, 2004


Mr. Chairman/Madam Chair
Distinguished Fellow Government Representatives
Representatives of International Organizations, and of
Civil Society,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Anniversaries are a time for both celebration and reflection. The Cartagena Declaration of 1984 reflects the deep-rooted, generous tradition of asylum in Latin America. It has been invaluable in meeting the needs of refugees in the region.

The history of the Declaration is instructive in the lessons it provides concerning the process of multilateral negotiations and the role pragmatism plays in humanitarian assistance. UNHCR played a key role in supporting the region by bringing parties together, by providing technical assistance, and by keeping the momentum for the Declaration alive. It was not an easy or quick process, with the document going through several drafts over a number of years before being finalized. Those involved in its creation and those who have implemented its guidelines deserve recognition.

The Cartagena Declaration of 1984 built upon the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol by recognizing the humanitarian needs of people who fell outside of the Convention and Protocol. The Declaration recognized the need for protection guidelines specific to the situation of persons displaced by the turmoil of the 1980s in Latin American. Though Latin America had a long tradition of accommodating refugees, such an elaboration was instrumental in responding to the needs resulting from the regional crises of the 1980s.

Fortunately, durable solutions for the refugees of the 1980s were found; unfortunately, conflict and human rights abuses in the hemisphere have created new refugees and large numbers of internally displaced persons. While protection is available to many of these people, this is not always the case. There is much more to be accomplished, for instance, in developing and implementing procedures for determining the status of those who seek asylum in this hemisphere and according those granted such status their full rights under international law.

The United States remains committed to working with Latin America to ensure that protection is available, assistance is provided, and durable solutions developed for these new refugees and IDPs.

On this occasion of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Cartegena Declaration, Latin America should take pride in what it has accomplished through this historic document.


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