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Promoting Citizen-Centred Security through South-South Cooperation I Brasilia 2012

Posted date: 
Fri, 12/14/2012



From national security to citizen security

For decades,  the term  “security” in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) was synonymous with national security, where the army and police had responsibility for maintaining law and order with little accountability or oversight by citizens.  From the 1960s to the 1980s, the region’s military regimes became infamous for human rights violations committed by security forces, including thousands of extra-judicial executions of political citizens. However, since re-democratization in the 1980s, more and more LAC countries have incrementally adopted policies based on the principle of citizen security. This notion puts the citizen at the centre of security concerns, implying that any action meant to improve security should focus on the needs, rights and engagement of citizens.

Beyond the crime rate: assessing governance for citizen security as a means of achieving sustainable results

In this perspective, within efforts to tackle security issues effectively, one particular challenge that arises is the difficulty of obtaining reliable and relevant information to identify specific problems accurately and generate policy and programmatic responses. The most commonly used reference of crime rates per 100,000 inhabitants is recognized as conveying only part of a complex picture, as many crimes go unreported, certain types of crimes such as corruption or domestic violence are sometimes not considered as such, some victims of homicides in poor marginalized areas are not even identified, etc. The capacity of official systems to collect, compare and centralize data on crime reports, citizens’ complaints, police detentions and court judgements is often weak, thus making accurate statistics practically impossible to obtain.

The call for a broader vision and policy-making process on citizen security is accompanied by a pressing need for a better, broader and more inclusive monitoring of all its aspects. Besides the many technical improvements that are to be made to the measurement of security, a key condition of the shift of paradigm in security policies is also the inclusive participation of the beneficiaries in the process of assessing security, identifying the priority issues to be monitored and the methods for monitoring them in a way that is most representative of their actual concerns on the ground, and thus eventually feeding into policy-making.  In this area too, Latin American countries offer innovative approaches to monitoring and policy-making processes for better citizen security.     

Sharing a wealth of new experiences

In the context of supporting countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in their efforts to strengthen citizen security and measure it more effectively, the OGC and UNDP Brazil organized the Regional Workshop on Governance for Citizen Security in Latin America: Developing South-South Cooperation to Manage Knowledge and Promote Governance Approaches to Citizen Security, in Brasília on October 8 and 9, 2012. The event benefitted from substantive support from the Crisis Prevention and Recovery team at UNDP’s Regional Service Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama and UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SU/SSC).

Over two days, 60 government officials, academics, members of the police, security specialists and UNDP staff from various countries in the region exchanged experiences and learned from one another while creating networks for future south-south cooperation.

A number of innovative practices were showcased, demonstrating the progress many countries have made in the security sector over the past years.   Beto Chaves, a civil police officer from Rio de Janeiro, presented   Papo de Responsa, a Brazilian initiative that brings together police officers and youth at risk to break barriers of mutual distrust and build understanding and empathy, as well as instilling in youth a sense of responsibility and self-worth. Costa Rican Minister of Planning and Economic Policies, Minister H.E. Roberto Gallardo, presented the country’s innovative citizen security and social peace promotion policy, which included broad consultations with over 1500 citizens from all regions. UN Women representatives Elizabeth Arauz and Beatriz Jarrin made a gripping presentation on the situation of women in Ecuador, where 6 out of 10 are victims of violence, and mentioned how important it is to develop reliable monitoring systems to address current challenges. The Deputy Director of the Nicaragua National Police, Francisco Díaz Madriz, presented the Nicaraguan “Shared responsibility” model which includes citizens, families and communities as a fundamental pillar of its prevention policy. 

A new page in history

A meeting in one of the main Latin American capitals which gathered high-level officials, academics, UN organizations and high-ranking police officers to openly discuss security policies, security data, human rights and community participation would have been unthinkable some years ago. The very fact that this was possible – and the engagement of participants from very different backgrounds and varying political ideologies – is testimony to the fact that the region is slowly moving away from some of the darkest pages of its history, toward a new, more promising future with citizens at the centre of the debates on how to best ensure security, based on a new paradigm.

See he full workshop report here. All presentations will soon be available on