BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
The political, human rights and socio-economic developments in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (hereinafter “Venezuela”) have led to the largest movement of refugees1 and migrants in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean. As of November 2020, of the approximately 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela outside of their country of origin, some 4.6 million are hosted in the region alone, including an estimated 1 million with an irregular status. Despite the devastating and ongoing socioeconomic and human impact of COVID-19, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have continued to show great solidarity towards Venezuelans and to facilitate access to basic rights and lifesaving services as well as supporting their integration. However, the already precarious situation of many refugees and migrants from Venezuela and affected host communities is reaching alarming levels, as national and local capacities have been dangerously strained due to the continued impact of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean, threatening the overall social fabric in the 17 countries covered by the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (hereinafter “RMRP” or “the Plan”). In a region characterized by high levels of informal labour, the implementation of measures aiming to curb the spread of COVID-19 (including border closures, lockdowns, curfews and other quarantine measures) has had a disproportionately grave impact on refugees and migrants. Without savings or alternative social safety nets, the loss of employment has resulted in many being unable to cover basic needs or access vital services.
As a result of the complex economic and political outlook, increased dependency on emergency humanitarian assistance in the areas of health, shelter, food, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), as well as access to education, protection and integration is reflected in the increased needs outlined in the RMRP 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a dramatic increase of reported cases of genderbased violence (GBV) and mental health needs, while leading to widespread food insecurity, rising levels of malnutrition and growing destitution especially among the most vulnerable, namely unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), single-headed households, women and girls at risk of GBV and trafficking, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community and those in situations of irregularity.
Xenophobia and stigmatization are on the rise, often based on negative perceptions associated with fear of the spreading virus and rising rates of evictions and homelessness, leading to a vicious cycle of irregularity, vulnerability, and stigmatisation. Indeed, the RMRP 2021 will need to consider the increasing number and needs of those in irregular situations who are highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including violence and discrimination as well as smuggling and trafficking.
The RMRP was first developed in 2018 (implemented throughout 2019) as a strategic regional response plan and advocacy tool to support country and subregional operations and to ensure the most pressing humanitarian, protection and integration needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, as well as those of host communities, were met. As in previous years, the RMRP 2021 provides a comprehensive analysis of the movement dynamics to be expected for 2021 and the corresponding needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela as well as of affected host communities. It further describes the response strategies and priority activities and indicates the financial needs of all partners of the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform to be able to continue assisting the population in need in an effective and coordinated manner.
Reflective of its inter-agency and multisectoral character, the RMRP 2021 is based on joint needs assessments carried out by RMRP partners at national and sub-regional levels on an ongoing basis, and on continuous exchanges with host governments, civil society actors and affected populations. The planning phase started in August after consultations with key strategic partners of the Platform, host governments, as well as the donor community.
Importantly, the RMRP 2021 is the result of an intraregional field-driven strategic planning process, bringing together 158 appealing organizations, in consultation with all host governments, local communities and authorities, United Nations agencies, civil society, including international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based organizations, the Red Cross Movement2 , the donor community, as well as consultations with refugees and migrants from Venezuela. The structure of the RMRP 2021 reflects the sectoral set-up of the Regional InterAgency Coordination Platform (see following chapter) and all strategies and activities articulated in this Plan have been reviewed and cleared by the different Platforms and Sectors, both at regional and national/ sub-regional levels, and have been elaborated in complementarity with the work of host governments.
The RMRP 2021 strives to maintain a balance between responses focusing on immediate humanitarian and protection assistance, and activities that bridge the humanitarian-development-peace nexus by responding to the longer-term resilience and integration needs of affected populations and host communities.
To enhance this complementarity between humanitarian action and development support, the Regional, Subregional and National Platforms will serve as a forum for convening humanitarian and development partners for efficiently coordinated assistance. This approach is in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Humanity, the UN Development System Reform, the Grand Bargain global commitments and the principles of the New Way of Working, calling for collective and coherent support to reduce people’s needs and vulnerabilities, based on comparative advantages of 158 humanitarian and development RMRP actors across the region.
RMRP partners at the regional and national levels have continued to show commitment and dedication throughout the preparation of this Plan. The RMRP 2021 intends to build upon the best practices and lessons learned from 2020, presenting a more comprehensive plan for 2021, for an even more effective, coordinated and holistic response for refugees and migrants from Venezuela in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Bearing in mind the various political and socioeconomic developments unfolding in Venezuela as well as in numerous host states, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for 2021 remains particularly complex and fragile. These dynamics have been reflected throughout the planning exercise and in all chapters of this RMRP. In this spirit, RMRP partners will continue to regularly and transparently report on implementation of activities under the RMRP dedicated monitoring and reporting framework, and will continue to be highly responsive to newly arising challenges or changes impacting on refugees and migrants from Venezuela as well as affected host communities. In 2021, the RMRP also seeks to complement and further strengthen the national and regional responses of governments, including specifically the Quito Process as the main technical regional intergovernmental coordination forum in which key policies towards refugees and migrants from Venezuela are discussed and adopted.3