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The Republic of Honduras is located in the northern part of the Central American isthmus; with a total land area of 112,492 km², it is the second largest Central American country. It is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north, Nicaragua to the east and southeast, the Pacific Ocean (through the Gulf of Fonseca) and El Salvador to the south, and Guatemala to the west.

Several offshore islands and cays form part of the Honduran territory; these include the Bahía and Cisne islands and the Media Luna cay on the Caribbean, and the Zacate Grande and El Tigre islands in the Gulf of Fonseca.

Mountains cover some 82% of the country; Las Minas mountain is the highest, with an elevation of 2,849 m above sea level. Honduras has a rugged topography and steep slopes — most of the country has slopes steeper than 25% and shallow soils — leaving only narrow plains along the coasts.

The climate is primarily tropical, but temperature and rainfall vary widely with elevation and topography. The overall annual mean temperature is 25.3°C, but it is 26°C in the Northern Coastal Plain or Caribbean Lowlands, between 16 and 24°C at elevations ranging from 600 to 2,100 m asl, 16°C in the highlands above 2,100m asl, and 28ºC in the Pacific Lowlands. The overall mean annual rainfall is 1,524 mm, but it is lowest in the central mountains (800-2000 mm) and highest in the Caribbean coast (over 2,000 mm). Two well-defined seasons occur in most of the country; the dry season lasts from November to March and the rainy season from May to October, with a dry spell during July and part of August. The Caribbean coast receives rain all year-round. Interannual variability is strongly influenced by El Niño/La Niña events; El Niño events decrease rainfall and increase temperatures, while La Niña events do the opposite.

The rivers draining into the Caribbean Sea are longer, and their drainage basins more extensive, than those draining into the Pacific Ocean. Major rivers include the Coco or Segovia, Patuca, Ulua, Aguán, Tinto or Negro, Chamelecón, and Plátano rivers on the Caribbean slope, and the Choluteca, Goascorán, Nacaome, and Negro rivers on the Pacific slope.

Honduras is a democratic republic administratively divided into 18 departments which are, in turn, subdivided into 298 municipalities. The capital city is Tegucigalpa, situated in the Central District of the department of Francisco Morazán [1], [2], [3].

Important National Context

With an estimated total population of 9.304 million inhabitants (48.7% men, 51.3% women) and 82.7 inhabitants per square kilometre (as of 2020), Honduras is the second most populous country in Central America. The population is growing rapidly (1.6% estimated annual growth rate as of 2020) and is projected to reach over 10.76 million inhabitants by 2030, and 13.3 million by 2050. Half of the population is 24.3 yr old or younger (as of 2020). The population includes mostly mestizo people, while indigenous people accounted for 8.6% of the population in 2013 (date of the latest population census) [4].

The spatial distribution of the population is highly uneven. The departments of Cortés and Francisco Morazán concentrate 37% of the country’s population. Home to an estimated 1.78 million people (as of 2020), Cortés is the most densely populated department in Honduras. It concentrates most of the country’s industrial activity and its departmental capital city, San Pedro Sula, is regarded as the industrial capital of Honduras. Some 1.67 million people (as of 2020) reside in the department of Francisco Morazán, the seat of the national government at the capital city, Tegucigalpa.

Honduras has been experiencing a rapid urbanisation process as a result of population growth in urban zones and rural-to-urban migration. Some 55% of the population was estimated to live in urban zones in 2020, compared to 53.4% in 2013, 46% in 2001, and 39.4% in 1988 (dates of the three latest population censuses) [4].

With an annual average GDP of $22.8 billion and average growth rate of 3.8 % during the 2015–2019 period, the Honduran economy is the third smallest in Central America, only above Nicaragua and Belize. Three sectors currently comprise the majority of Honduras’s economic activity: services, industry (mainly maquila and agro industry), and agriculture (mainly sugar cane, palm oil, banana, and coffee). The services sector accounted for 57.6% of 2019 GDP, the industrial sector contributed 27.1%, and the agriculture sector (including crops, livestock ranching, forestry, and fishing) accounted for 10.8%. Personal remittances from the Honduran diaspora (mainly in the USA) totalled over $5.4 billion in 2019, or approximately 21.7% of GDP.

With a Gross National Income per capita of only $2,380 (as of 2019), Honduras is regarded as a lower-middle income country and is one of the poorest countries in the LAC region. It ranked 132 out of 189 countries worldwide and the second lowest in the LAC region (only above Haiti) in the UNDP’s 2019 Human Development Index (0.634, medium human development). Wealth is extremely unequally distributed, with the richest 10% of the population holding 34.7% of the national income, against the 3.6% held by the poorest 20% (as of 2019). The Gini coefficient was 48.2 in 2019, among the twenty most unequal countries in the world. Thanks to the slow but steady growth of the overall economy, general poverty in the population decreased from 71.1% to 64.7%, and extreme poverty from 50.9% to 41.7%, between 2012 and 2019 countrywide, but with marked differences between urban (where general/extreme poverty were 58.5%/25.4% in 2019) and rural (where general/extreme poverty were 72.2%/61.5% in 2019) areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020; in addition to the public health crisis, it has also had profound socioeconomic impacts including massive job losses due to confinement measures, food insecurity, and declines in access to quality education and health. These impacts were further exacerbated by the extensive damages (heavy rains, floods, landslides, damage to infrastructure, crops, and households, and human losses) caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota in November 2020. Despite the government’s response and the sustained inflow of remittances, some 13% of adults are estimated to have lost employment, GDP contracted by 8.9%, and about 700,000 people are estimated to have fallen into poverty in 2020 [5], [6], [7], [8], [9].

Honduras currently has fairly decent telecommunication systems and internet services. In 2000, 67.4% of the population had access to electricity (94.4% vs. 44.8% in urban vs. rural areas), fixed telephone services had a coverage of only 4.5 subscriptions per 100 people, the penetration of cellular phone services was 2.4 subscriptions per 100 people, and only 1.2% of the population were using the internet. Access to electricity increased to 86.5% (97.8% vs. 71.8% in urban vs. rural areas), fixed telephone services increased to 5.2 subscriptions per 100 people, the penetration of cellular phone services increased to 87.3 subscriptions per every 100 people, and 32.1% of the population were using the internet by 2017 [6].

Honduras is highly exposed to climate-related hazards such as hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, droughts, and landslides that devastate crops and critical infrastructure. The national economy has been severely damaged and affected by food insecurity, poverty, and migration of Hondurans in search of security for their families.

For instance, Hurricane Mitch destroyed an estimated 70% of the country’s crops and infrastructure in 1998, caused over 10,000 deaths, affected over two million people, and left over $3 billion in damages; the energy sector alone suffered losses for 28 million due to physical damage and blackouts. Flood and storm events have had more severe impacts and the number of people affected has shown an increasing trend since 2000. Despite recurrent impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, the country has still overall a very low adaptive capacity at national, regional, and local levels.

Intense rural-to-urban migration and the cities’ own population growth have pushed poor people in major cities and towns (e.g., Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Choloma, and Tela) to settle into hazard-prone zones that lack water management systems, resulting in frequent flooding and water scarcity. Honduras's growing population, especially in urban areas around Tegucigalpa leads to ever-greater encroachment in areas prone to landslides and flooding.

Corruption and violence are critical issues in Honduras.

Corruption has a negative impact on the country's economic development, particularly on tax collection and the quality of public spending. Economic losses from corruption are estimated at 2% of GDP per year. The country has made progress in its fight against corruption thanks to the support from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the creation of the anti-corruption commission of the National Police, and the establishment of the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras. Even so, the country remains among the countries with the highest perception of corruption.

For instance, the 2017 presidential elections were charged with fraud and violence, with at least 29 people killed when President Juan Orlando Hernández was re-elected in murky circumstances. Mr Hernández was even accused of having turned Honduras into a narco-state and he was implicated in a trial in the United States that found his brother guilty of drug trafficking in 2019. On November 28th 2021 Hondurans voted in a peaceful, exceptionally highly attended presidential election. The winner, Xiomara Castro, is hoped to help Honduras build a country they no longer wish to flee from, by rebuilding democracy, creating a fairer economy, and getting rid of corruption.

Violent crime is rampant in Honduras. Despite a recent downward trend, the murder rate remains among the highest in the world. The homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants improved from 86.5 to 59.0 between 2011 and 2016, thanks to increased patrols, improved response to complaints and increased investigative capacity. Although the absolute number of homicides has decreased, there has been an increase in homicides against women: homicides of women were 6% of the 2010 total, and 9% in 2016. According to ECLAC data, in 2016 Honduras was characterized by its high rates of homicides against women, 10.2 per 100,000 women, 60% of these homicides could be categorized as femicides.

Journalists, environmental activists, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are vulnerable to violence.

Criminality poses a high cost for the country. The economic cost of violence was estimated at 6.5% of GDP in 2014. A key factor in explaining high criminality is the institutional weakness of the justice system, which hinders the effectiveness of law enforcement and crime and violence prevention. According to the 2016 World Justice Project, the country has one of the least effective criminal justice and order and security systems in the world. Efforts to reform public-security institutions have stalled. Marred by corruption and abuse, the judiciary and police remain largely ineffective. Impunity for crimes and human rights abuses is the norm.

Poverty, violence, and insecurity cause significant outflows of migrants and asylum-seekers [10], [11].

Environmental Governance

Honduras Environmental Agenda is a country document that is implemented in a national and international context based on the legal framework of the General Environmental Law.

Honduras is signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention, the Convention on Migratory Species, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The Ministry of the Environment (MIAMBIENTE+) is the entity responsible for implementing the country’s environmental policy and for fulfilling the country’s commitments before multilateral environmental conventions and treaties.

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

The strategic vision of the Government of Honduras is reflected in the “Visión de País 2010 – 2038” for long term planning, the “Plan de Nación 2010-22” that provides a mid-term strategic guidance to achieve the long-term vision, and the “Plan de Gobierno 2018-2022” that reflects the short-term efforts under the Government’s mandate [12].

The third objective of Honduras’ long-term Country Vision and National Plan (2010-2038) is entirely consistent with the EU’s focus on prioritizing climate action consistent with the Paris Accord and with its Biodiversity and Forest Strategies. The third objective aims at having a productive country that makes sustainable use of its natural resources while reducing environmental vulnerability. Its third goal is, in fact, to increase the share of renewable energies in the country’s energy mix to 80%, while the sixth goal aims to have 1,000,000 ha of forest-suitable land under ecological and productive restoration and participating in international carbon markets.

Additionally, Honduras was the first country in the Americas to enter into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade negotiations with the EU. The VPA was signed by the EU and Honduras in February 2021. It will enter into force after each Party has ratified it in line with their internal procedures [13].

“Plan de Gobierno 2018-2022” outlines seven strategic priorities: boosting innovation, widening access to credit for households and small and medium-sized enterprises, enhancing the country's role as a Central American logistics hub, promoting education and health, strengthening security and defence, promoting investor confidence, and fighting corruption. All of which, are aligned with the EU’s strategic priorities 2019-24, including the EU Green Deal and Digitalisation.

To support Honduras in achieving its vision, three priority areas have been identified for EU-Honduras cooperation for the period 2021-2027: (i) sustainable management of natural resources and climate change; (ii) employment, decent work and growth; and (iii) rule of law and democratic governance [12].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Honduras is one of the Central American countries with the highest levels of losses due to extreme events and its economy is severely damaged and affected by food insecurity and migration of Hondurans.


Climate Change

A large proportion of the country’s population is at severe risk from hydro-meteorological and associated extreme climatic events, such as floods, droughts, and landslides, as well as the permanent threat of water resources mismanagement which aggravates reduced water availability.

In recent years, a large number of adverse hydro-meteorological events have occurred, such as prolonged periods of drought and heavy rains causing floods that have impacted the means of production and livelihoods, such as housing, crops and infrastructure, among other aspects. It has suffered the highest losses as a percentage of its national GDP due to the impacts of 66 extreme events in the period 1998-2017.

Natural disasters exacerbate food insecurity and compromise infrastructure. The rural poor (72% of the rural population as of 2019) depend on rainfed agriculture as their principal livelihood and are concentrated in the southern and western regions, known as the Dry Corridor, where food insecurity has become a recurrent issue.

The contribution of the agriculture sector to Honduras GDP has declined sharply from 21.6% at the end of the 1980s to 19% at the end of the 1990s, 17% at the end of the 2000s, to 15% at the end of 2010. This decline has been mainly caused by the impacts of floods triggered by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and the recurrent droughts, periodically exacerbated by El Niño events, that have been particularly severe in the last decade.


Food insecurity

Honduras is one of the most food-insecure countries in the LAC region. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)’s 2018 analysis of chronic food insecurity (CFI, that is, food insecurity that persists over time, mainly due to structural causes) in Honduras, about 54% of the population experience some level of CFI. About 17% of the population face moderate CFI and another 6% experience severe CFI. CFI affects particularly the Dry Corridor, where 9 out of 10 departments are in Level 3 (Moderate Chronic Food Insecurity), and one department (Francisco Morazán) in Level 2 (Mild Chronic Food Insecurity). Almost 70% of the population in the Honduran Dry Corridor live in a state of moderate to severe food insecurity. Agricultural production in this region, has been decreasing. It is estimated that 60% of harvests have been reduced, affecting the food supply, which in some critical years has fallen by up to 80% and generating an increase in the prices of the basic food basket by up to 20%. Additionally, the income of this sector of the population has suffered a significant reduction, leading to an increase in the migration of people from the countryside to the city.

Food insecurity is frequently exacerbated by weather conditions and natural disasters, which trigger periods of acute food insecurity (AFI, that is, food insecurity occurring at a specific point in time and of a severity that threatens lives or livelihoods, or both, regardless of the causes, context, or duration). As of March 2021, at least 2.9 million people face high levels of acute food insecurity and therefore require urgent action. Of these people, 614,000 are in emergency phase. The entire country has been classified in IPC Phase 3, with the departments with the greatest severity being: Cortés (41%), Yoro and Valle (35%), and with the greatest magnitude: Cortés (732,000 people in IPC Phase 3 or above), Francisco Morazán (469,000 people), and Yoro (221,000 people). The severity of acute food insecurity has reached unprecedented levels and the IPC analysis projects that the situation will worsen in the coming months.

The main causes of this situation are the heavy losses caused by category 4 hurricanes Eta and Iota in November 2020, which destroyed homes and livelihoods, as well as income losses due to mobility and transport restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation of acute food insecurity was likely exacerbated by a persistent lack of employment, depletion of food reserves, rising food prices, and the possibility of exacerbation of COVID-19 measures. These conditions could lead to the persistence of Crisis and Emergency coping strategies in affected households.