WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
16 Oct 2008 | | News

Civil Society Statement on the First Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas

Mexico City, 7th – 8th of October 2008

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are pleased to have been invited to participate as observers to the First Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas. With this in mind, we recognize the importance that in the preparation of this first meeting a space for consultation was given to civil society organizations, as well as access to drafts and other working documents. We look forward to deepening our relationship with the Organization of American States and governments of the hemisphere on issues of citizen security in future meetings.

Making use of this space, the undersigned civil society organizations: 

  • Consider that the realization of this ministerial meeting constitutes an important step for the Organization of American States in that it enables a body of high-level authorities the ability to address the problem of security, which despite constituting a fundamental problem in the hemisphere lacked an autonomous space for discussion.
  • Observe with satisfaction that this meeting signifies the recognition that interpersonal violence is one of the most serious problems of the Americas, which calls for the strengthening of national policies and regional coordination.
  • Emphasize very positively that the drafts of the declaration and preliminary documents contain a vision that reflects the complexity and the multiple dimensions of the problem of violence and crime.

Because of this, we understand that it is essential that the declaration of this first ministerial meeting not lack definitions that have been important in the modernization of institutions and public security policies in the region, which are indispensable as points of departure for reaching standards that are already established in other regional systems.

Therefore, we: 

  • Agree with the statement that international human rights treaties are essential as criteria for the modernization and transparency of security institutions. With this in mind, we insist on the need to include in the declaration that future ministerial meetings be instructed to evaluate the reports of the Inter-American human rights system, in order to incorporate its recommendations or request studies from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on the security and human rights situation in the hemisphere so that the content be taken into consideration when defining the agenda of future ministerial meetings.
  • Believe that it is essential that the ministerial meeting promote unified codes of conduct as a framework for the education, specialization and training of law enforcement personnel. With this in mind, the establishment of a code of ethics or conduct for regional police forces, as well as the development of unified indicators, particularly those linked with the consolidation of democracy and respect for human rights, would constitute a positive step forward.
  • Insist on the importance of including in the declaration the necessary distinctions between the functions of the police forces and the armed forces in relation to the exceptional participation of the armed forces in internal security matters, as this confusion favors the institutional weakness of the public security system.
  • We emphasize the need for the declaration to promote, in countries whose constitutions allow for the participation of the armed forces in combating crime, domestic legislation that regulates the exceptional circumstances, timeline and control mechanisms for such participation, preserving democratic principles and respecting the permanent application of human rights.


ARGENTINA: Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS). UNITED STATES: Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). CHILE: Centro de Estudios en Seguridad Ciudadana (CESC); Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO). PERU: Ciudad Nuestra; Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL). BRAZIL: Conectas. MEXICO: Instituto para la Seguridad y la Democracia (INSYDE).