Human Development Report for Latin America 2013-2014

Human Development Report for Latin America 2013-2014

November 12, 2013

Insecurity is a shared challenge that obstructs social and economic development in every country in Latin America, says UNDP’s Regional Human Development Report (HDR) 2013-2014. But crime control measures alone are insufficient; the most effective way to reduce citizen insecurity is by improving people’s lives, boosting inclusive economic growth and enhancing security and justice institutions.

The HDR "Citizen Security with a Human Face: evidence and proposals for Latin America" reveals a paradox: in the past decade, the region experienced both economic growth and increased crime rates. Despite social improvements, Latin America remains the most unequal and most insecure region in the world. While homicide rates reduced in other regions, they increased in Latin America, which recorded over 100,000 murders per year, totaling more than a million from 2000-2010. While homicide rates stabilized and even declined in some parts of Latin America, it is still high: in 11 of the 18 assessed countries the rate is higher than 10 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, reaching epidemic levels. Moreover, the perception of security has worsened, with robberies hiking threefold in the last 25 years, says the regional HDR.

The HDR focuses on six main overlapping threats that negatively impact the region: street crime; violence and crime committed by and against the youth; gender-based violence; corruption (the misappropriation of public property, whose provision is the responsibility of the state); violence committed by state actors and organized crime.


  • While poverty and inequality decreased in most of Latin America from 2004-2010, in more than half of the assessed countries homicide rates rose, even in countries with lower levels of poverty.
  • In addition, one in every three Latin Americans reported being a victim of a violent crime in 2012, says report.
  • The region’s rising consumer expectations and relative lack of social mobility drive "aspirational crimes," says the HDR.
  • The transformations sparked by rapid and disorganized urban growth, as well as changes in family structure and school system deficiencies have also influenced crime in the region.
  • Moreover, firearms, substance abuse and drug trafficking also drive violence, even though they are not direct causes of crime.
  • UNDP-conducted surveys in prisons in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru highlight persistent social challenges.
  • One in every three inmates left home before age 15 (in Chile, one in every two), and between 13 percent (Argentina) and 27 percent (El Salvador) never met their father or mother.
  • The survey also revealed that 40 percent of inmates in Chile did not finish primary education.
  • In all assessed countries, more than 80 percent of inmates did not complete 12 years of schooling.