Representatives from civil society organizations from North and Central America, assembled in Washington by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), would like to express our deep concern regarding what appears to be civil society’s exclusion from the design of a regional security strategy, which is being developed by the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Central American governments, and the international community. The document reflecting the conclusions of a meeting held in Washington yesterday between SICA, the IDB, the United States, the European Union, and other groups cooperating with Central America does not mention a plan to consult with civil society groups regarding the strategy’s development.
Through WOLA, this group of Central American civil society representatives requested to participate in the meeting, given these non-governmental organizations’ valuable experience in violence prevention and research, as well as in the application of various security actions in the region. In spite of this expertise, our request was denied.
Civil society, linked by regional and local networks and possessing vast experience in processes of community pacification; social reinsertion of at-risk youth; violence prevention in schools; and strengthening of state institutions such as the police, the judiciary, and the public ministry – frequently with financial support from the international community – believes that it can make relevant contributions to the regional citizen security strategy. These contributions would allow the region to overcome its tendency to concentrate efforts and resources on repressive actions that have been demonstrated to be ineffective and counterproductive.
As noted by Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela, this phenomenon requires a comprehensive strategy; as such, we believe that rather than excluding relevant sectors of society, this strategy should be driven by a spirit of democratic participation. This means coordinating various groups working on the issue, including promoting the efficient use of resources provided by international cooperation, in order to obtain concrete results in regional violence reduction.
Therefore, we ask that the aforementioned organizations reconsider the apparent exclusion of civil society in their efforts and create a permanent space for meeting and dialogue between civil society, SICA, governments in the region, and other willing actors, in order to generate comprehensive consensuses that will make security policies and violence prevention agreements effective. This participation should be accepted as a positive, propositional initiative from civil society organizations.
We believe that the problem is exceedingly complex and therefore requires cohesion and coordination between a variety of initiatives and efforts to avoid continuing increases in levels of homicide, criminality, and citizen insecurity in the region. This will also effectively contribute to the construction of a culture of peace.
We hope that this willingness to contribute and participate will be taken into consideration in the interest of strengthening democratic processes related to security and peace in the region.
José Manuel Capellín
Civil Society – Honduras
Mónica Zalaquett Daher
Center for Violence Prevention (CEPREV)
Central American Coalition for the Prevention of Youth Violence (CCPVJ)
Fernando Girón Soto
Myrna Mack Foundation
Fundación Arias para la Paz y el Progreso
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)