Inauguration of the "Roadmap to Seismic Safety" developed by the Government of Haiti and UNDP. The aim of this flagship project is to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of the population and the local economy to future earthquakes. Photo: UNPD Haiti

For UNDP working on crisis prevention and recovery means tackling both the causes and the consequences of crises, natural disasters and violence, which undermine sustainable human development, particularly of the affected populations.

Even today, despite a substantial poverty reduction in the region and some improvement in closing the inequality gap, about 200 million people live in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean—and the region remains the most unequal planet.

Although the scope of armed conflict in the region appears limited, the proliferation of social and political conflicts of varying intensity and spiraling crime rates and new security challenges, suggest that the preventive approach is more relevant today than ever. Preventing armed, political and social conflicts, curbing insecurity and promoting social cohesion are closely related to democratic reforms and institutional strengthening processes.

Recently there have been important developments in the region. For example, the ongoing dialogue between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in the Spanish acronym) aims to halt the nearly 50-year-long conflict. In El Salvador, after years of having one of the highest murder rates in the world, the country improved safety indicators, reduced gang violence, and helped curb access to weapons and organized crime. Or in the case of Guatemala, where General Rios Montt was the first former head of state convicted of genocide by a court in his own country. Although the sentence was overturned due to a technicality, it is still considered as an important milestone against the culture of the impunity.

Even so, there are still many remaining challenges and strengthening democratic governance is an essential step for the stability and prosperity of the region in the medium and long term. For this reason, UNDP addresses these issues in a comprehensive manner, adding to its conflict prevention work a wide range of disaster risk management and early recovery.

How do we address these challenges?

UNDP helps strengthen institutional capacities for crisis management and peaceful resolution of conflicts, by supporting opportunities for dialogue and consensus building, tools and systems for capacity development.

Our lines of work

Conflict Prevention
- Provide advice and technical support.
- Develop and strengthen national capacities and key social actors.
- Generate knowledge.

Citizen Security

- Technical assistance policies and safety measures.
- Development of tools for action.
- Knowledge networks and advocacy.

Disaster risk reduction and early recovery
-Provide advice and support on disaster risk management.
-Provide advice on crisis response and early recovery support.
-Support the integration of strategies and Risk Prevention and Recovery and climate change adaptation.

UNDP in Action

In El Salvador UNDP has helped design public policies on national justice and security. A landmark UNDP study on firearms and violence was also critical to amend existing laws and regulations. Law-enforcement agencies started implementing gun-free zones, banning civilians from carrying arms in the 20 most violent municipalities. Between April and June 2011, gun seizures have increased percent, resulting in 12 percent less murders, 40 percent less recorded injuries and a seven percent reduction in thefts.

UNDP and sister UN agencies also work in El Salvador with local governments to prevent violence and boost human development by training high-school students and helping them get jobs as soon as their studies are completed.

In Guatemala, UNDP is working to strengthen the Ministry of the Interior’s capacities in criminal investigation, providing training, creating a unified information platform for police forces and strengthening its work in violence prevention with special emphasis on young people and women.

Citizen Security and Human Development

El Salvador
Photo: UNDP El Salvador

Our two most recent sub-regional Human Development Reports, one for the Caribbean and the other for Central America, focused on citizen security, offering a diagnosis of how crime and insecurity hinder human development. The reports provide policy recommendations, highlighting initiatives and best practices to address these challenges.  Since citizen security is of utmost importance for Latin America and the Caribbean’s social and economic development, UNDP is preparing a region-wide Human Development Report that will address the citizen security issue more broadly.

Related Publications
Preventing Crisis, Enabling Recovery: BCPR Annual Report 2011

Disasters, violent conflict, and economic and climate-related turbulence continue to claim lives, destroy economies and livelihoods, and undermine development progress for millions of people. Crisis prevention, recovery and reducing the vulnerability of countries to catastrophe are cornerstones of UNDP’s work. As part of UNDP, the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) was established to support innovative approaches to crisis prevention, early warning and conflict resolution, as well as to help bridge the gap between emergency relief and long-term development.

A Decade of Work on Citizen Security and Conflict Prevention in Latin America & the Carribean 2001-2010

Exclusion and inequality coupled with high crime rates in the region undermine the foundations of democratic governance and constitute a large obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Therefore, although this report is limited to the presentation in part of UNDP activities, it should be noted that UNDP’s work transcends the limits of this report.

Video: Haiti: Disaster to development