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IDB supports the fight against violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Inter-American Development Bank has been a pioneer in supporting citizen security programs for Latin America and the Caribbean. Its current portfolio for the region is more than $580 million for this purpose, more than any other multilateral agency.

The IDB's support consists of technical and financial assistance to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for the implementation of comprehensive security. The IDB produces analytical work and knowledge to support the formulation of public policies, promote dialogue and cooperation between government, civil society and the private sector, and provide mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation.

Violence and crime in Latin America and the Caribbean

One of the main challenges that must be overcome in Latin America and the Caribbean is violence and crime. According to UNDP, the region has the highest homicide rate in the world, 26 per 100,000 inhabitants. That's three times the world average of 8 per 100,000. Violence is the leading cause of death among Latin Americans between 15 and 44 years. It is estimated that between 70,000 and 90,000 people die every year because of a firearm, three times the global average.

These figures, however, conceal a wide dispersion, as an important part of the problem is concentrated in a group of countries and even in specific urban areas. Among the factors that promote the deterioration of security is the presence of drug trafficking, the proliferation of gangs, youth unemployment, domestic violence, lack of rehabilitation programs and the lack of comprehensive preventive measures.

The rising tide of violence and insecurity is a major challenge for governments in the region because it is permeating society and exceeding the response capacity of the state. It affects the welfare and economic development of the inhabitants of the region, especially the most vulnerable groups: youth, women and the poor. This creates the need to seek a comprehensive response to combat crime and violence, with greater international support and better regional coordination.

The IDB and citizen security

The IDB works with a holistic approach, addressing the manifestations and causes of violence with interventions attending the most vulnerable groups: youth, women and poor communities. The Bank focuses on preventing crime and violence from a broad and multidimensional perspective including local, national and regional levels. Its work covers many areas including youth and domestic violence prevention, strengthening of the justice system, modernization of the police, generating reliable information and statistics for decision-making, rehabilitation and social reintegration, and use of new technologies to improve performance of the public sector.

Specific actions of the IDB’s support to the region include:

  • Supporting national programs and strategies in Panama, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Jamaica.
  • Providing $57 million to help Colombia implement its citizen security strategies in Medellín, Cali, and Bogotá, which included the construction of Justice Houses and alternative conflict resolution mechanisms.
  • Local crime prevention activities implemented in 15 Nicaraguan and 18 Jamaican communities, which include training for police in family and youth violence, and citizen security training for students and teachers. Youths were provided with employment and sports opportunities.
  • Implementing national or local crime and violence “observatories” in 24 countries, which consist of a mechanism to compile and consolidate information from multiple entities to improve policy-making based on better information and evidence.
  • Creating the Mayors for Peace Network to promote sharing of good practices among 40 mayors in the region.
  • Establishing a Standardized System of Security Indicators in 15 countries to promote greater harmonization of information and standards to measure crime and violence.
  • Implementing Citizen Security Clinics to promote policy dialogue, exchange specialized knowledge and experience among high-level government officials in 15 countries in Latina American and the Caribbean.
  • Strengthening school violence prevention programs in Chile, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Nicaragua.
  • Implementing programs preventing violence against women in Nicaragua, Honduras, Uruguay, and Colombia.
  • Supporting comprehensive youth prevention projects in Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.
  • Preventing organized crime by supporting detection units that strengthen airport, border, and customs security and combat money laundering.
  • Supporting police reform with community interventions in Nicaragua, Chile, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. This included police force recruiting, training and oversight.
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