A meeting of high-level government officials ended with an exchange of opinions with a view preparing a regional agenda for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of the 49th Ordinary Meeting of the Heads of State of the Central American Integration System (SICA) (link in Spanish), the president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, handed the pro-tempore presidency of the bloc over to the president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, who vowed to continue with his predecessor’s work.

The meeting was also attended by presidents Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador; Jimmy Morales Hernández of Guatemala; Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras; and Danilo Montero of the Dominican Republic; ministers Moisés Halleslevens of Nicaragua and Wilfred Erlington of Belize; and representatives from 27 observer countries.

Among other topics, those present emphasized the importance of the five pillars of integration (link in Spanish): strengthening institutions, democratic security, social integration, economic integration, and integrated risk and climate change management. These are the strategic areas that the bloc established when it relaunched in 2010.

At the end of the meeting, the president and foreign ministers signed the Final Declaration of San José: “Toward a Strategic Regional Agenda for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (link in Spanish)”, through which they passed the following initiatives:

-The Regional Strategy for the Productive Articulation of Micro-, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs), in order to strengthen institutional capacities and increase the competitiveness of these firms and their involvement in markets.

-The Central American Social Integration Council’s Regional Action Plan on Poverty and Social Protection 2017–2020, which prioritizes social protection as a way to guarantee welfare.

-The launch of the Deep Integration Process toward the Free Transit of Goods and Persons between Guatemala and Honduras, a historic agreement that was signed on June 26, 2017, which will stimulate relations between the two countries.