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The Regional Conference on Migration or Puebla Process:

The Regional Conference on Migration (RCM or Puebla Process) is a multilateral regional forum on international migration which involves countries that, from different perspectives, share a common problem, based on experiences relating situations of origin, transit and destination for migration.

The RCM is one of the concrete outcomes from the Summit of Presidents called Tuxtla II, celebrated on February 1996, which gave special significance to migration issues in the context of economic and social development in the region. The first meeting was held in March in the city of Puebla, Mexico, having Canada and the United States as participants of a constructive dialogue on one of the most sensitive and complex social phenomena that international community faces and particularly the governments and societies in the region.

Today the RCM member countries are: Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Dominican Republic.

Together with the member countries, the RCM also includes countries that have observer status, which are: Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica and Peru. They participate in open discussions of the Meeting of Deputy Ministers, but are not involved in the agenda items, in the processes of decision making, or in the preparation of documents containing recommendations or commitments unless they have permission of the Presidency Pro-Témpore (PPT).

In addition, the RCM has the following regional and international observer organizations: Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations / Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (ECLAC / CELADE), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), International Organization for Labour (ILO) International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants of the United Nations Organization, the Secretary General of Ibero-American Conference (SEGIB) the Central American Integration System (SICA), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the  United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The role of international organizations in the RCM is to support the implementation of some projects that governments identify, provide information on the status of the situation of interest issues; provide technical advice and recommendations on specific aspects.

As a way of strengthening the dialogue between the RCM and civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) formed the “Regional Network of Civil Organizations on Migration” (RNCOM), which functions as the main interlocutor on behalf of the civil society organizations from the region working on immigration issues. RNCOM became involved in the RCM during the Third Conference, held in Ottawa, Canada in 1998. Currently, it participates in seminars and workshops of the Conference and has spaces for participation in the working agendas of the Liaison Officers Networks, the Regional Consultation Group on Migration (RCGM) and the Vice-Ministerial Meeting.

In order of importance, the main parts of the Puebla Process include: Meeting of Deputy Ministers, the Regional Consultation Group on Migration (RCGM), the Liaison Officers Network to Combat Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking and the Liaison Officers Network for Consular Protection. It also created the Technical Secretariat (TS) to support the management of RCM, with features that are described later. To define its lines of work, the RCM set up its Plan of Action, which outlines the commitments for regional action and a basic framework for the management and coordination of activities. The RCM divides its agenda and Plan of Action under the following themes: Migration Policies and Management, Human Rights, and Migration and Development.

Operational Structure of the RCM

The Meeting of Vice-Ministers:

It is the executive decision-making element of the RCM. It is held in the spring or the first half of each year in the territory of any Member Country that offers to act as President Pro-Témpore. The meetings of Vice-Ministers are divided into two parts:

  • Plenary Meeting in which countries and observer organizations participate. The agenda of discussion should include at least: the report of the President Pro-Témpore, the opening statements of the delegations of the member countries and dialogue with Civil Society Organizations, represented by the Regional Network of Civil Organizations (RNCOM), and other topics of interest previously identified by the Presidency Pro-Témpore and the other members.
  • Closed-door meeting attended by only Vice-Ministers/Secretaries, accompanied each of them, with a senior official as they consider appropriate.

In the closed-door meeting, the conditions for new membership, and the criteria for the participation of observers are set. Also decision making regarding administrative and financial matters related to the Technical Secretariat, as well as actions and future activities of the RCM are established.

Agendas for Meetings of Vice-Ministers are specified taking into account the necessary follow-up of previous meetings and topics of interest to the Presidency Pro-Témpore and input from other members. A preliminary version of the agenda is shared with all member countries and international agencies observers in order to obtain contributions.

Decisions adopted by consensus are recorded in the Declaration and Decisions issued at the conclusions of each annual meeting.

The Regional Consultation Group on Migration (RCGM):

The RCGM was created as a result of the first meeting of the RCM in order to implement and monitor the political agreements. It represents the technical and operational level of the Conference and meets the need of the countries of the region to enhance cooperation and promote exchange of information about issues specifically related to migration. The observer organizations participate in the technical meetings of the RCGM, but not the observer countries. This group is in charge of preparing recommendations to the Vice-Ministers and to implement and monitor the actions decided by them. This group meets twice a year, performing the first meeting in conjunction with the Vice-Ministers’. Its responsibilities include:

  • Update the Plan of Action of the RCM, which includes the exchange of information, seminars, trainings and projects within three main themes: management and migration policies, human rights, migration and development.
  • Review, in coordination with the Technical Secretariat, and approve the work plans of the Liaison Officers Network to Combat Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking and the Liaison Officers Network for Consular Protection. These plans are the tools for monitoring the actions of the networks.
  • To consider administrative and budgetary matters related to the Technical Secretariat (TS).

In the sessions there is also a space for the participation of the civil society, represented by the Regional Network of Civil Organizations for Migration (RNCOM).

The Liaison Officers Network to Combat Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons and the Liaison Officers Network for Consular Protection:

These networks were established to share information and organize coordinated activities on matters within their competence. They meet just before RCGM meetings. They are responsible for developing and implementing their respective work plans once they have the approval of the RCGM, and prepare reports that are presented during the session of the RCGM. Networks can make a single joint meeting or after separate meetings to assess issues of common interest where required.

Observer countries and international bodies do not participate in these meetings, unless they are explicitly invited. In addition, in the agenda of each network, there is a space for the participation of RNCOM.

The Technical Secretariat:

The Technical Secretariat (TS) was conceived in the first instance, with the name of Technical Support Unit (TSU), which would perform the tasks requested to IOM to assume, formally, as the technical and secretarial support provider of the RCM. From this request, in March 2001, the IOM set the TSU to meet the needs of the Presidency Pro-Témpore specifically and RCM in general. The following year, during the VII Regional Conference on Migration held in Antigua, Guatemala, was designated by the name of the Technical Secretariat of the RCM. Since its creation, it has the technical cooperation and administrative support of IOM and the funding from member countries. One of the fundamental tasks of the TS is to assist the Presidency Pro-Témpore in the organization and monitoring of activities and initiatives of the Conference.

Moreover, the TS receives general guidelines and supervision of the country holding the Presidency Pro-Témpore of the RCM, in order to keep track of the mandates and guidelines emanating from each meeting. In addition, it is responsible for assisting the PPT in the management of the Process, including coordination of meetings and exchange of information. The TS is composed by a Coordinator, an Information Technology Specialist and an Assistant. It has an annual budget approved at a Vice-Ministerial level, which is covered by contributions from member countries based on a predefined scale of contributions. It works as an autonomous unit within the IOM Regional Office for Central America and Mexico, located in San Jose, Costa Rica. IOM also provides physical space, facilities for resource management, purchases and other technical support.

The TS should coordinate with focal points of each country to cooperate with the Presidency Pro-Témpore in the overall coordination of the Conference, including aspects of logistics for events.