Citizen security

 Citizen insecurity is the cause and consequence of development problems confronting Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: UNDP in El Salvador

According to the Human Development Report for Latin America 2013-2014: Citizen Security with a Human Face, Latin America is the only region in the world where lethal violence increased between 2000 and 2010, and its citizens identified crime and violence as their main concern.

As for the Caribbean sub-region, the Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 reveals that the elevated rates of violent crime and insecurity are related to a limited range of human choice, what means the existence of inequality of opportunities that restrict the choices of life among large sections of the population. In this sense, crime may thus rightly be regarded as a problem profoundly related to development and that results into a lack of confidence in the state security institutions, such as the police or the justice system.

Violence and fear limit people’s opportunities and are obstacles to human development, the exercise of human rights, and the strengthening of democratic governance.

Some of the most common manifestations of insecurity in the region are related to youth violence, gangs and gender-based violence, especially domestic and sexual violence against women and girls which includes femicide, the most extreme form of this violence.

For these reasons, citizen security should not be seen exclusively as a reduction of delinquency rates, but rather as the result of policy that comes from a comprehensive, sustainable, participatory, and multidisciplinary approach. This approach should include elements for the improvement of the quality of life of the population; community action for crime prevention; accessible, agile, and effective justice systems; and lastly, education that is based on values, respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights.

So, UNDP takes into account that in addition to the reduction of crime indicators, efforts should focus on creating living conditions that avoids in a proactive way the outbreak of violent or criminal acts. Protecting the life of the entire population, as well as safeguarding their integrity and patrimony, are fundamental principles that will allow people to live and develop freely without any   fear, risks, or threats. It is important to stress that there are many types of “violence” that can affect people in different ways, therefore each situation or outbreak should be evaluated in detail.

For more than 20 years now, using an integral and multidisciplinary approach, UNDP has developed projects and activities on citizen security in 19 countries in the region.


UNDP works on citizen security from a prevention perspective with the goal of creating the social conditions that allow for sustainable results. It also provides support at local, national, regional and global levels to design comprehensive citizen security public policies.

Its cooperation initiatives are centered around reducing risk factors, strengthening institutional capacity, fostering social insertion, providing attention to vulnerable groups, promoting a culture of peace, and improving and appropriating safe public spaces, to name a few. From this perspective, the main function of the State is to guarantee security and, therefore, it is essential to improve institutional performance as a way to enhance democratic governance.

For this reason, UNDP is promoting reformation within the security and justice sectors, stronger policies to address and prevent crime, and security policies to prevent and bring awareness to victims of gender-based violence. It also seeks to decrease impunity, strengthen institutional development and capacity building by training of public actors on citizen security issues, and provide new approaches to prevent violence in populations at greater risk for conflict with the law, particularly children, adolescents and young adults.  In addition, UNDP has given special attention to the inclusion of civil society and has worked directly with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), academic and research centers, as well as the private sector at regional, national and local levels.

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