Central America most crime-ridden region in world, UN report finds

Photo: Raimond Spekking

21 October 2009 – Central America has become the region with the highest levels of non-political crime worldwide, with an average murder rate of 33 per 100,000 inhabitants last year, three times greater than the global average, a new United Nations report warns, noting that crime threatens the region’s development.

Some 79,000 people have been murdered in the region over the past six years, but despite these heightened levels of violence, solving the problem of insecurity is possible within the framework of democracy, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Report on Human Development in Central America 2009-2010.

“Apart from its economic costs, which are concrete and indisputable, one of the main reasons why this is a crucial issue is that violence and crime are affecting the day-to-day decisions of the population, making insecurity a clear hindrance to human development,” UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Rebeca Grynspan said.

“One of the most difficult costs to quantify is that of lost freedoms,” she added. “No aspect of human security is as basic as keeping the population from being victimized by fear and physical violence.”

Security involves intelligent diagnosis, a real political will and an integrated system for adopting and executing short- and long-term actions, the report says.

“Security is everyone’s right, and the State has the duty to provide it,” said Hernando Gómez Buendía, the general coordinator of the report. “Without security, there is no investment. Without investment, there is no employment, and without employment, there is no human development. Security is an essential part of the development strategy of nations and cities.”

Security requires a very hands-on management of the problem, and an intelligent citizen security strategy for human development would not be complete without the participation of local governments, according to the report. This assumes direct knowledge of the problem, proximity, decentralization and flexibility on the part of national and local authorities.

Both the strong-arm and the soft touch approaches have failed and must evolve toward a “smart” strategy of citizen security for human development with a new comprehensive strategy that includes preventive and coercive actions, congruence with the justice system and respect for the values of civility, it adds. Real political will, clear leadership, and continuity from one government to the next are crucial.


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