Crime poses major threat to Latin America’s progress, says UNDP chief

Sep 14, 2011

Mexico City - Despite steady social and economic progress, crime and insecurity still pose a challenge to Latin America and the Caribbean, said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark in Mexico City today.

“In the last two decades, Latin America’s quest for democratic governance has made great progress, with the strengthening of electoral democracy and a steady transition towards civilian and more transparent forms of governance,” she said on a visit to mark the 50th anniversary of UNDP’s presence in Mexico.

“These achievements followed a recent past of violence and repression from authoritarian political regimes which limited citizens’ rights,” she said in a discussion at the Castle of Chapultepec with Mexico’s Minister of the Interior Francisco Blake.

But she cautioned that chronic insecurity and entrenched inequality remain major challenges for the region as a whole, with consequences that reach across borders and set back hard-won gains in governance as well as development.

With an annual average of approximately 25 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, Latin America is among the most violent regions in the world. In 2010, more than 18,000 people were murdered in Central America alone and UNDP found that governments there spent US$4 billion on security and justice: a 60 percent increase over four years—more than what some countries receive in aid.

“Transnational criminal organizations pose a huge threat to state security institutions whose mandate is limited to the national context,” she said. “Societies and states are sometimes tempted to use illegal means to fight crime, and the public debate on insecurity can become unduly polarized.”

“More coordination is needed across borders in matters of intelligence, security, and policing to combat these gangs,” Helen Clark added.Given the scope of the challenge, UNDP will focus its next Human Development Report for Latin American and the Caribbean on the issue of citizen security, coordinated by the Mexican scholar and former foreign policy advisor to President Calderon, Dr. Rafael Fernández de Castro.

UNDP is currently supporting citizen security programmes and providing high-level technical advice to at least 10 countries in the region.

“We have helped governments develop and implement regional and national comprehensive plans, promoted legal reforms and innovative local security management approaches, and supported reforms to justice and law enforcement institutions,” she concluded.

In addition, on 13 September the Government of Mexico and UNDP signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement to boost Mexico’s experience sharing with other countries in social and economic development. UNDP has signed similar partnerships with the governments of Brazil, China and Turkey.

“The evolution of the UNDP-Mexico partnership also reflects Mexico’s own successful development journey, which has made it one of the world´s largest economies and a powerful regional and global player.”



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