Citizen Security in Latin America and the Caribbean: Challenges and Innovation in Management and Public Policies in the Last 10 Years

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Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have been waging a war of low intensity, with high mortality and exorbitant economic, social and political costs. Although the region does not have active armed conflicts, its levels of violence include the highest homicide rate in the world: 22.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, compared to the global average of 5.3. This critical situation has created a state of social alarm, making citizen security the leading citizen concern and placing it at the top of the political agenda.

In the last decade, Latin American and Caribbean governments have advanced towards a systemic management of citizen security and justice issues, integrating strategies of crime and violence prevention and control, the application of justice, and social rehabilitation. The region has moved from reactive and punitive approaches to the design and implementation of comprehensive models focused on human rights and multisectoral coordination. Likewise, security institutions were decentralized to incorporate multiple institutional and social actors at different levels of government. In addition, in terms of public policies, the use of a range of tools for management by results, coordination, planning, financing, and evaluation of programs was promoted. Unfortunately, conceptual and doctrinal advances have not been incorporated with the necessary speed to address the high levels of crime and violence faced by the region. The four main institutional challenges to citizen security are: i) comprehensiveness, ii) multisectoriality, iii) rigorousness, and iv) sustainability and scalability. The ten recommendations formulated in this document propose actions aimed at accelerating the transformation of security governance.


Key Recommendations:

  • The evidence indicates that citizen security and justice requires a specialized management system with strategic vision and leadership.
  • Public security and justice policies with a balance between crime prevention and control have a greater effect in reducing crime.
  • Accountability mechanisms are key elements in generating legitimacy.
  • The efficiency of public policies on citizen security and justice depends on the effective allocation of human and financial resources.
  • The efficient management of public policies in the sector depends on quality of information and access to applied knowledge.
  • Promote the use of the cycle policy approach for the analysis of citizen security decisions in order to plan their sustainability and scalability.
  • Promote the training of specialized managers in citizen security and justice, who are empowered to integrate a comprehensive, multisectoral, and sustainable approach to interventions.
  • Strengthen the learning and exchange of experiences among peers, especially between representatives of subnational governments and civil society organizations working at the local level. 
  • Promote and facilitate the exchange of successful experiences that have proven to be efficient in overcoming disconnects and promoting inter-institutional and intersectoral coordination at all levels.
  • Promote participatory governance that encourages the incorporation of civil society in all stages of the public policy cycle, through institutional arrangements duly designed for that purpose.