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IDB presents video and statistics on violence in Latin America

RIO DE JANEIRO - More than 100 officials and international experts participating on a conference on "Municipal Initiatives for Prevention and Treatment of Violence" attended a preview of an Inter-American Development Bank video and report on the negative impact of violence on the quality of life and on development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Titled "From Rage to Recovery: Societies Search for Peace," the video seeks to awaken public opinion and governments to the urgent need to reduce and prevent violence, which has grown 40 percent in the region in the past decade if it is measured in terms of the homicide rate.

"Violence is not an unavoidable problem; it can be and should be prevented,"said IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias. "Without mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, there can not be full development, because development goes beyond economic growth. It requires social justice, the consolidation of democracy and human rights."

The television documentary not only shows the different faces of violence in the cities, but it also demonstrates the successes of several innovative preventive initiatives, which are as varied and complex as the problems they deal with.

The experiences highlight the importance of broad, multisectoral policies that are designed with the participation of all sectors of society and focused on the main risk factors, such as easy access to firearms, drugs and alcohol.

The video carries testimony from experts, government officials, community leaders, and ordinary citizens – including both perpetrators and victims of violence – on creative efforts to stop the cycle of violence, especially as it effects children and youth at the municipal and community levels.

Viewpoint of the IDB

"Latin America is among the regions of the world with the highest level of violence, with a homicide rate that is twice the world average," according to Mayra Buvinic, chief of the IDB Social Programs Division of the Bank’s Sustainable Development Department. "The problem is one of the main concerns of citizens of the region and a serious obstacle to development."

According to IDB studies in six countries, "governments of the region must spend between an estimated 5 and 25 percent of the gross domestic product because of needs arising from violence and its consequences. These resources could have been dedicated to productive purposes if violence had been reduced at its source," Buvinic added.

Aware of the problem of citizens insecurity and its impact on the economies of the region, the IDB in recent years has begun research in this area and is financing programs that promote citizens peaceful coexistence and security in cities.

The first IDB loan approved in this sector was for $57 million to support a program to promote citizens’ security in Colombia. It included assistance at the national and municipal levels for the design and implementation of policies and projects to promote citizens’ security in urban areas.

Another loan of $17.5 million to Uruguay supports the establishment of an innovative program to strengthen the capacity to design and implement policies and projects to reduce urban violence with a multisectoral strategy and with participation of the community.

Domestic violence, which until recently was considered mainly a private matter, has drawn increasing public interest, not only because of its devastating human effects, but also because of its adverse effects on development and growth.

Research shows that between 25 and 50 percent of Latin American women suffer some kind of violence at home. IDB studies show that the losses to some countries by this type of violence in terms of lost salaries by the victims is the equivalent of between 1.6 and 2 percent of the gross domestic product.

Costs are multiplied by the need of additional services in the areas of health, police, justice, and other indirect expenses. Perhaps the most disturbing result of domestic violence is the transmission of aggressive behavior to children who have experienced it in their homes and communities.

The Bank has financed studies on the socio-economic impact of domestic violence, a video, televised debates, and pilot programs to train judges and create integrated networks for treatment and prevention. Additional research in six countries studied the individual and social costs of social violence.

IDB President Iglesias said in the new video that "violence is not inevitable, but to reduce it we need to act right away. Governments should take the initiative and work in a concerted effort with civil society, the private sector, and the mass media to assure the rights, health and economic welfare of citizens. The IDB supports these efforts."

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