Helen Clark: Meeting on Regional Security, Citizenry and Development in Mexico City, Mexico

14 Sep 2011

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Meeting on Regional Security, Citizenry and Development
in Mexico City, Mexico
Wednesday 14 September, 2011 at 13.00-14.15

I am pleased to be participating in this event which forms part of UNDP´s 50th anniversary celebration of its presence here in Mexico.

Regional security, citizenry, and development are the broad, yet inter-related, themes of our discussion today.

Binding them together is democratic governance which underpins citizen security, public safety, and trust in the forces of law and order.

In the last two decades or so, 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.

These achievements followed a recent past in quite a number of Latin American countries which was characterized by the violence of repression by military or other authoritarian political regimes which limited citizens’ rights.

Since then dramatic steps have been taken in many countries to embrace the democratic project fully by reforming political institutions and upholding the rule of law.

Commitment and transition to democratic governance, however, is not enough on its own. Insecurity and inequality continue to challenge many Latin American democracies. With an average of approximately 25 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, Latin America is among the most violent regions in the world. In Central America, more than 18,000 people were victims of homicide in 2010 alone.

Insecurity is a threat to democratic governance and development progress. Societies and states are sometimes tempted to use illegal means to fight crime, and the public debate on insecurity can become unduly polarised.

The cost of dealing with insecurity is revenue diverted from investments in education, health, and other areas which are vital for human development. In El Salvador, for example, the annual total costs of violence have been estimated at a massive 10.8 per cent of GDP.

Transnational criminal organizations pose a great threat to state security institutions whose mandate is limited to the national context. More co-ordination across borders in matters of intelligence, security, and policing is needed to combat these gangs.

Effective national and local institutions are critical for fighting crime and enabling the state to protect its citizens. UNDP’s experience of working on these issues suggests that comprehensive violence reduction plans are needed, both to strengthen the relevant institutions and to support communities to create more secure environments. Efforts to reduce crime, also need to be guided by human rights principles and the rule of law.

Building resilient nations which can help prevent and reduce violence and crime falls within UNDP’s core mandate. We are currently supporting citizen security programmes and providing high level advice in this area in at least ten countries in the region. We have helped governments develop and implement comprehensive regional and national plans, promoted legal reforms and innovative approaches to managing local security, and supported reforms to justice and law enforcement institutions.

Some countries in Latin America, including Chile, Uruguay, and Colombia, have managed to decrease levels of violence or maintain low levels. Sharing the experience of how that was made possible may help inform policy approaches in other countries too.

UNDP has chosen citizen security as the theme for its next Latin American Human Development Report. The report will be co-ordinated by Mexican scholar and former public official, Dr. Rafael Fernández de Castro. Our aim is to offer a comprehensive assessment of the main challenges to citizen security, and the changes which this phenomenon has undergone in recent years. We hope that the report will contribute to enhanced human development, governance, and citizen security across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Leadership
Helen

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.

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