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Honduras

Situation and cooperation

The CLIFOR programme, a project to support adaptation to climate change in the forest sector, focuses on environmental protection and sustainable economic activity

The current programme of the Government of Honduras is entitled the "Everyone for a Better Life" Plan (Plan de todos para una vida mejor). Efforts to improve people's lives focus on four areas: peace and security; job creation, competitiveness and productivity; human development and eradication of social inequalities; and transparency and modernisation of the state.

There is a great deal to be done. Honduras is one of the least developed countries in Latin America. Income and wealth are extremely unevenly distributed, and the country suffers recurrent difficulties in supplying the people with staple foods.

In late 2014, the government signed a Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), giving the government access to additional credit. One aim is to enable the government to increase investment in social sectors whilst placing a ceiling on new public borrowing and public spending.

Almost two thirds of the population live in poverty. While unemployment officially stands at just 3.9 per cent (2014), many people of working age are underemployed.

Security situation

View of the city of Gracias in Western Honduras

The security situation in Honduras is difficult. Although the government has made progress in its fight against the drugs trade and has reduced the number of homicides being committed, the murder rate remains one of the highest in the world.

Organised crime (trafficking in drugs, arms and people) and gang crime is still prevalent in the major cities. Ethnic and sexual minorities and street children are particularly likely to be victims of violence. There are also high levels of domestic violence. The high level of feminicide is particularly alarming.

Most violent crimes are not brought to justice. The police and the judicial authorities are generally regarded as being in large part corrupt and inefficient, and having links with organised crime. With so many crimes going unpunished, citizens have little faith in government institutions.

President Hernández’ government is making efforts to address the security problem, in part by expanding the country’s security apparatus. A military police force was established in 2013. Yet the lack of funding, trained staff and proper equipment mean that government institutions do not yet have the capacities they would need to take effective action.


Human rights

Small taxi in Honduras

Human rights, while formally acknowledged in Honduras, are frequently not respected in everyday life. The media is often subject to intimidation and many journalists who express critical views fall victim to violent crime.

Conflicts arise repeatedly with indigenous groups, for example when energy or mining projects are being planned in their tribal lands. It is not unusual for land disputes between plantation owners, smallholders, farm labourers and criminal groups to culminate in violence.

The government has recognised that human rights are a problem and is addressing public safety, the rule of law and anti-corruption. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights established an office in Tegucigalpa in December 2016 in response to a request from the government.


Economy

Sunset in Puerto Cortės, Honduras

Honduras' main export markets are the United States of America, Central America and Europe. Its main exports are textiles, coffee, bananas, seafood, farmed fish, tropical timber and palm oil. Honduras' economic development depends largely on the level of demand for these products and on world market prices. Other major sources of income are tourism and remittances from Hondurans living abroad. In 2015, according to World Bank figures they sent over three billion US dollars back to their families in Honduras.

Although the economy is growing, there is also a steep growth in the population. To compensate for this, new jobs need to be created in the industrial sector in particular and more opportunities opened up on the job market for young people in particular. This will require not only improvements in the country’s domestic industry, but also investment on the part of foreign firms. Companies tend to be put off, however, by the poor security situation, the lack of legal certainty and low levels of education in Honduras.


Environmental issues

Taken together, the Bosawás biosphere in Nicaragua and the Río Plátano biosphere in Honduras form Latin America's second largest area of rainforest

Honduras is a country with unusually rich biological diversity. Yet these ecosystems are under threat. Every year large tracts of rainforest are felled, mostly illegally and without controls. Furthermore, overfishing, marine pollution and growing diving tourism are destroying the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Livestock farming and the intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides are causing lasting damage to soils. Chemicals used in mining are posing a threat to drinking water reserves.

Changes in the global climate are greatly increasing the risk of extreme weather and natural disasters in Honduras. Although the effects of this are already being felt, interest amongst policy-makers, the business community and the general public in ecological sustainability is only now beginning to emerge. In recent years the government has laid important political foundations for stepping up conservation and climate change mitigation. The realisation and financing of these schemes are now the major stumbling blocks.


Development potential

People in Olanchito, Honduras

The greatest opportunities for growth are to be found in the agricultural sector. By modernising and expanding the range of products offered, Honduras could potentially break into new markets. Family-run farms, which are of vital importance for directly reducing poverty, could develop their potential better if outstanding questions over land rights were resolved. Germany is therefore helping disadvantaged indigenous communities to assert their traditional land use rights both politically and legally.

Other areas offering potential for development are processing and the use of renewable energies. A law on the expansion of renewable energies has resulted in an increasing percentage of power being generated by hydropower, solar and wind plants.


Priority areas of German development cooperation

At the government negotiations in Berlin in November 2016, Germany committed fresh funding of 20 million euros to Honduras for 2016 and 2017. Of this, 10 million euros was allocated to Financial Cooperation and 10 million to Technical Cooperation.

Cooperation between Germany and Honduras focuses on the following priority areas:

  • Environmental and resource conservation
  • Education

In addition to these two areas, a regulatory policy fund was established in 2014 for specific measures to support the political dialogue between the German government and the Honduran government. The fund is used to support specific reforms driven by the political level, civil society and the private sector in the fields of transparency, human rights and indigenous peoples.

Together with its Central American neighbours, Honduras is also involved in regional projects relating to sustainable economic development, environmental and resource conservation, renewable energy/energy efficiency and prevention of youth violence.

It is also engaged in triangular cooperation initiatives with countries in South America.


Environmental and resource conservation

Río Plátano biosphere has some of the richest biodiversity in the world

Honduras still has the largest contiguous area of forest in Central America, but every year it is losing around two per cent of its forests. This has been and is being caused mainly by large-scale industrial logging, which often takes place unchecked, and by the encroachment into forest areas of arable and livestock farming (in particular coffee and oil palm plantations). Every year major forest fires also decimate the country’s forests, and recent years have seen recurrent plagues of bark beetles; in 2015 an explosion in the bark beetle population led to the loss of about 30 per cent of the country’s natural pine forests. Although laws and regulations are in place to protect ecosystems, they are rarely applied or enforced.

In order to strike a balance between protecting the climate and natural resources and the population's interest in using those resources, Germany is advising Honduras on the establishment and administration of nature reserves and the establishment of a land registry system for the Río Plátano biosphere reserve.

German experts are also advising Honduras on the implementation of a strategy for community-based forest management covering about 10 per cent of the country’s total forests and taking special account of the impacts of climate change. This will help the country's very poor rural population to use the forest resources entrusted to them sustainably, as well as adapting their agriculture to climate change and tapping new sources of income. In future, cooperation will also include measures to help cities adapt to climate change as well as addressing biodiversity conservation in coastal waters.


Education

Children carrying wood on their bicycles

Honduras’ education system still rates very poorly when compared with other countries at international level. The school system has manifold shortcomings: the fabric of many school buildings is in a lamentable state of repair. Rural areas in particular have few secondary schools, and those that do exist are often poorly equipped. Many teachers are not adequately trained. The low standard of education acts as a constraint on labour productivity. Administrative bodies cannot recruit educated officials and companies cannot find skilled workers. Improvements in education, especially at primary level, are therefore key to the future development of Honduras.

Germany’s development cooperation in the education sector aims primarily to improve the access of all children and young people in rural areas to high quality education. The last few years have seen progress. The enrolment rate, for instance, has risen from 63 per cent in 2011 to 79 per cent in 2014.

Compulsory education has now been extended to thirteen years, which includes one year of pre-school, nine years of basic education and three years of secondary education. In 2015, for the third time in a row, children received lessons on the prescribed 200 days of the year. Illiteracy has fallen to around 11.5 per cent (2015).

German development cooperation played a major role in these achievements, for example by advising the Ministry of Education on the implementation of the education reforms (decentralisation and quality of education) and providing funding for school infrastructure and the master plan.


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