International Contact Group on Venezuela: ministerial declaration
New York, 23 September 2019
The International Contact Group (ICG) met at Ministerial level in New York on 23 September. The Group welcomed the participation for the first time of Panama as full member.
The ICG members reaffirmed that the only sustainable solution to the Venezuelan crisis is a political, peaceful and democratic one, excluding use of force, and through credible and transparent presidential elections. They expressed their concern at the temporary suspension of the Oslo facilitated talks and urged the parties to return to inclusive, credible and serious negotiations on the basis of the previously agreed agenda.
To be credible, negotiations have to be representative and present a real perspective of a return to democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. The National Assembly as the democratically elected body needs to be a central actor in this process.The recently launched ‘national table’ between the authorities and some minority political forces does not offer the necessary guarantees of a participated and inclusive process.
The situation in the country does not allow for further delay. A negotiated transition leading to credible, transparent and internationally monitored presidential elections, the reinstitution of the public powers, and a package of guarantees enabling political coexistence are essential elements to overcome the crisis, achieve national reconciliation and economic recovery. Alternative routes can only lead to more polarisation, a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and a increase in regional tensions with serious risks of miscalculation.
The gravity of the findings of the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) on the situation in the country cannot be ignored. The group urges full cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner and the UNHRC special procedures, including by facilitating unfettered access to the country. The group supports the steps taken to open up a fully fledged OHCHR country office in Venezuela. The totality of the recommendationscontained in the HCHR report ought to be fully implemented, notably those focusing on prevention, investigation, accountability, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition. The ICG stands ready to assist the UN HCHR in her efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Venezuela.
The ICG acknowledges the conditional release from prison of the Vice-President of the National Assembly, Edgar Zambrano, but stresses that all other political prisoners arbitrarily detained should be immediately released.
The ICG reiterates its deepest concern about the rapidly worsening humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Lack of access to basic services, food, shortages of water, electricity and fuel and increased levels of violence have generated large-scale needs and pushed people to leave the country.
The ICG takes note of the official recognition of the humanitarian crisis and welcomes the substantial improvements in the set-up and coordination of the humanitarian system. It commends the efforts of the UN and all actors working in the humanitarian country team to gather information, to issue the first humanitarian response plan aiming to provide and accelerate the response to the multiple needs of people.
However, implementation capacities are still weak compared to the needs. Multiple constraints still exist regarding the access and operating conditions for humanitarian organizations, in particular NGOs. The ICG stresses the need to secure adequate conditions for the deployment of specialized national and international humanitarian organizations. It is crucial that humanitarian organisations have unimpeded access to those in situation of vulnerability in order to operate in an independent manner, deliver assistance swiftly, without constraints, and free from any political interference. Aid relief to those in need is a humanitarian imperative; and should not be subject to conditions or used as part of political negotiations.
Aware of the urgent need to swiftly scale up assistance, the ICG calls on donors to substantially increase humanitarian finance and to coordinate interventions to allow its most efficient use.
The Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis is now becoming one of the largest humanitarian crises of our times and its magnitude poses major challenges to the region. It is estimated that, so far, 4.3 million Venezuelans have fled mostly toneighbouring countries which are bearing the largest burden of this crisis. More needs to be done by the international community to support host countries in terms of registration and emergency relief, such as shelter, health care, food, but also more structural support aimed at creating economic opportunities, access to education for children and integration in host communities. In this respect the ICG welcomed the EU announcement of the forthcoming International Solidarity Conference on the Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis to be held in Brussels end of October. This initiative will be co-hosted with UNHCR and IOM, in close coordination with the Quito process.
More than ever Venezuela needs the support of an international community that works together and in complementarity. Coordinated international efforts are crucial to help Venezuelans to restore democracy and Constitutional order. The Group agreed to continue its outreach to all relevant international actors and welcomed the holding of meetings with CARICOM and the Lima Group. Close contacts with national stakeholders will also continue, including through a new visit by the special adviser for Venezuela, Enrique Iglesias, to Caracas.