Comprehensive Development Plan of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico

A new cooperation paradigm for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Comprehensive Development Plan initiative launched by the Government of Mexico in concert with the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, represents a multidimensional cooperation effort to promote inclusive and sustainable development in the region. Its ultimate purpose is to promote inclusive and sustainable development, as well as reduce economic, social and regional inequalities in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. This plan aims to be the first in the region and the world to begin implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Key points

  • Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have agreed a plan – the Comprehensive Development Plan – to tackle non-voluntary migration in the region
  • Thirty million people in Central and North America live outside their country of birth, 20 million of them in the United States
  • More than half of migrants cite economic hardship as their reason for moving, with violence and insecurity the second most-cited motive
  • Central America faces a huge jobs deficit; it needs over 360,000 new jobs every year but creates only 127,000
  • Proposals put forward by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) seek to create a dynamic free trade zone linking Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras


Migration within and out of Central America is a long-term phenomenon, driven largely by poverty and violence, and it is on the rise. Currently, some 30 million people in North and Central America live outside the country in which they were born. The solution to the problems generated by mass migration will need time because there are no quick fixes. Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – in an action that pre-dates the recent focus placed on the issue by the Trump Administration in the United States – have launched an initiative to meet the challenges posed by the large-scale movement of people across borders. It seeks to switch the emphasis from national security – essentially the security of the host country – to questions of sustainable economic and social development. The four-country initiative is based on a plan drawn up by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The European Union shares the approach being adopted, which is to tackle the economic and social drivers of migration without shying away from issues such as trafficking. Among migrants, 52 % give hoped-for improvements in living conditions as their principal motivation for moving; 45 % cite lack of security and problems of gang violence. Almost all of them accuse their local governments of being incapable of resolving the problems. The ECLAC plan sets out to promote economic integration between the four countries. The plan has been presented and is now being studied by the four governments. It took as its point of departure the four-point migratory cycle highlighted in the intergovernmental Global Compact for Migration, signed by countries at a meeting in Morocco in December 2018, and which seeks to honour international commitments in the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The migration cycle is origin, transit, destination and return. People migrate primarily for lack of economic opportunities or because their jobs are precarious and/or poorly paid. There are some 362,000 young people entering the jobs market in Central America every year, but only 127,000 jobs are being created. Salaries in the US are 10 times those of Central America. Family reunification is another important factor, particularly when it comes to migration to the US, which is home to 20 million people not born there. The ECLAC plan has four pillars – economic development, social integration, sustainability and integrated management of the migration cycle. It proposes creating an economic zone with free trade and integrated value chains linking southern Mexico and its three Central American partners. The tools include trade facilitation – to reduce red tape – infrastructure investment, the integration of energy networks and regional digitalisation. It also involves commitments to fight tax evasion and develop more progressive fiscal policies. It would strengthen systems of well-being, particularly schooling, by seeking to ensure that all children attend secondary school. However, some criticisms were raised of the ECLAC plan, notably its failure to stress trade issues, such as the price of coffee. The price of coffee in Europe, for example, is currently 75% below the level of 1983.


There will always be migration. But it should be a voluntary decision rather than something forced on people by economic hardship and violence.

Organised by


Luis Felipe López-Calva
Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
Jolita Butkeviciene
Director for Latin America and Caribbean
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Stefano Manservisi
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Mauricio Escanero
Head of Mission of Mexico to the European Union
Mission of Mexico to the European Union
Alicia Bárcena
Executive Secretary
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean