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IDB – Cooperating on citizens security and violence prevention in LAC


Colombia-National Planning Department; Dominican Republic-Secretary of State, Interior and Police; Ecuador-Ministry of Government and Police; Honduras-National Police; Paraguay-Ministry of Interior, Vice-Ministry of Internal Security; Peru-Ministry of Interior; and Uruguay-Ministry of Interior. Strategic partners accompanying the initiative are the Inter-American Development Bank and the Institute for Research and Development on Violence Prevention and Promotion of Social Coexistence, CISALVA.

Country (ies):

Colombia; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Honduras; Paraguay; Peru; and Uruguay


Before the inception of this South-South cooperation project, the countries in the Latin American region were searching for a collaborative mechanism that would allow them to deal with high levels of crime and violence through the implementation of preventive and control public policies. Therefore, the South-South cooperation project consisted in the design and implementation of a regional system of 19 standardized indicators to measure levels of criminality and violence affecting the citizens of the participating countries. The regional system of indicators made possible the identification, monitoring and comparison of regional phenomena linked to crime and violence. A common methodology for the measurement of each agreed indicator was developed through the joint collaboration of the participating institutions and countries. Also, the capacity of institutions in each participating country was strengthened in terms of consolidating their institutional coordination skills and internally improving their data collection methods. The project also promoted an inter-institutional dialogue at the national level that resulted in cooperation agreements for continued support in improving the preparation of relevant information.


The purposed and overall goal of the project was the development and launching, within three years, of a regional system of standardized citizen security and violence prevention indicators in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. This system would make possible the measurement, monitoring and comparison of regional phenomena linked to crime and violence. The availability of reliable, timely and comparable data would enhance the capacity of decision-makers in the beneficiary countries to formulate, implement and evaluate crime and violence prevention public policies.

The development challenge that the countries in the LAC region faced at the time of project start-up was a widespread increase in crime and violence that led to high perception of insecurity among its citizens. Such conditions led to a decline in the public trust regarding the capacity of government law-enforcement agencies to deal with these problems, exacerbating the sense of insecurity in the public and weakening the countries´ social fabric. These problems, common to all countries in the LAC region, have similar root causes and manifest themselves in very similar manner. Therefore, a common approach, in terms of intervention strategies and policies, was thought to be a possible useful way to deal with these problems. However, one problem facing this approach was that crime and violence data needed to develop preventive policies and strategies originated from different sources and had different levels of quality that made it difficult to compare and standardize.

The expected results of the project were the following: a set of consensus-based indicators on crime and violence prevention and peaceful coexistence, with their respective methodologies, sources and definitions, agreed by the participating countries; a regional information system on citizen security and peaceful coexistence implemented in the beneficiaries countries; and the systematization of good practices and their dissemination accessible to all participating countries.

The partners believed that it was useful to engage in this activity because the levels reached of crime and violence demanded collective action and cooperation among governments in the region. The design and implementation of collective crime and violence preventive actions demand timely and reliable data produced by standardized methodologies. The need for a collaborative regional approach has also been noted on several occasions: the Inter-American Coalition for the Prevention of Violence has made violence prevention a priority and has emphasized a regional approach; and the Statement of Citizen Security in South America of August 2005 underscored the need for cooperation in this area.

A call to begin developing a standardized system of indicators of crime and violence as a regional public good was made in September 2005. A year later government officials and delegates from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Panamá and Venezuela met to further develop and strengthen the proposal for the establishment of the regional system of indicators.


The process of developing the standardized regional system started in each country with an assessment of their data gathering mechanisms. This involved, first, the identification of institutions that were primary sources of crime and violence data and what indicators they had available. Once the key institutions were identified, a detailed analysis of each corresponding information system was made regarding the variables that were collected, their periodicity, what they were used for, what was the capacity of the institution in the handling of data and what type of hardware and software was used. The findings of this analysis were discussed in national workshops. A report was prepared that summarized the findings of each institutional analysis and the indicators available in each country. These workshops also represented the first instance that the national institutions interacted, finding out what information each had and how could each institution improve their own quality of data, leading to inter-institutional collaboration agreements. In other words, their institutional philosophy changed from improving their own institution's quality of data, to actions that strengthened the national system of indicators. Moreover, the collaboration agreements made strengthened national initiatives underway to improve the quality of crime and violence indicators. In some other instances, the improvement achieved in the national indicators allowed for better analysis of incidents and identification of root causes, leading to an improvement in public policy formulation and implementation.

The results of the national diagnostics were presented in a regional forum in which more than 50 delegates from the beneficiary countries participated with the purpose of selecting the group of indicators conforming the regional system. On the basis of the information presented, four working groups were established at the regional forum with the purpose of identifying a set of regional indicators. The working groups analyzed the information available from each country and recommended a set of 19 indicators on the basis of their pertinence, functionality, availability of data, reliability and usefulness. The recommendations of the working groups were presented in an open session of the regional forum and an agreement by consensus was reached among the countries' representatives on the 19 indicators conforming the regional system. The Steering Committee of the project consisting of delegates from each country with decision-making capacity.

A technical brief for each indicator was prepared in subsequent regional workshops, that included the definition of the indicators, variables and sources to be used for its measurement. Also, methodological protocols were prepared and agreed. Only the representatives of the beneficiary countries participated in the decision-making process. Examples such as the relationship between the National Police of Colombia-PONAL - with the National Police of Peru-PNP, or the relationship established between the Public Prosecutor of Ecuador and the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science in Colombia, to share processes that will allow them transfer of technology advance the generation of comparable and accurate parameters.

An additional benefit achieved by the project has been the inter-country institutional collaboration in seeking a common approach in dealing with issues of interest to the institutions. Through the interaction between the staff of the participating institutions, collaboration efforts are underway to provide assistance or best practices in areas of interest to the institutions of a similar nature in each country.


The relationships between participating countries were strengthened since the project provided for a venue for the interchange of views and opinions in how to deal with a problem affecting the LAC region. It also marked the first time that a regional approach was being used to standardize the measurement of crime and violence and improve the quality of information that would allow for an improvement in public policy formulation and evaluation. The country representatives felt that their views and opinions had equal weight and the dialogue was among equal partners.

The planned achievements were the development of a set of consensus-based indicators on crime and violence with their respective standardized methodologies, data sources, and definitions. The measurement of 10 indicators has been achieved and the process to measure the pending indicators is underway.

The unplanned achievements have been related to the collaboration agreements made both at the national and international levels. At the national level, the institutions participating in the project have seen not only the usefulness of improving their own information systems and data collection efforts, but also through collaborative efforts with other institutions, upgrade the nation's quality of information regarding crime and violence and thus ameliorate the country's response to these issues. At the international level, the participating institutions are collaborating with each other in addressing issues of their interest and in other endeavors.

The outcomes are sustainable since agreement on the regional system have been reached by consensus and not imposed by outsiders. Also, the participating countries have committed resources to the implementation of the system. The project outcomes can also be replicated in regions with high levels crime and violence and needing a regional approach to deal with the issues. The African Region is prime candidate to implement a similar regional approach.

Aid Effectiveness:

The national leadership supported the project by sending a written commitment expressing their interest in the project, naming a delegate to Steering Committee of the project to act on their behalf and committing resources to the implementation of the project. Also, the project provided support to the national institutions with responsibility of producing relevant information regarding the indicators comprising the regional system.

The participating countries had project ownership since all project decisions related to approval of budgets, methodologies of estimating and disseminating indicators, verification of project's technical and financial progress was the responsibility of the Steering Committee. This committee was comprised of all delegates named by the respective participating country.

Efforts have been made to coordinate with and consider the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States, Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization and the Organization of American States, the latter being responsible of providing guidance of public security issues in the region.

Capacity Development:

This initiative has supported the development of capacity in two fronts: strategic capabilities to reach consensus and coordinate inter-institutional responsibilities inside and outside the countries, and technical capacity to implement the regional public goods produce from their consensus. Inter-institutional exchanges play an crucial role in improving capacities. Incentives for improving public policies and data systems are more powerful when they are generated by consensus and take advantage of peer-to-peer learning. Consensus at the national level, for instance, was easier to reach when a common standard was in place and when the need for coordination came from outside. Technological capacities are also more efficiently acquired when the group takes advantage of economies of scale or economies of scope.

The participating institutions in each beneficiary country received assistance in preparing an assessment of their information system and in data gathering, processing and analysis. Additional support was provided to national statistical institutes regarding data quality control. At the systemic level, the synergy between participating institutions in each country in the production of information led to an improvement in data quality at the country level. With better information the capacity of national institutions to formulate and evaluate policy has also been enhanced.


Execution Period: 36 months Disbursement Period: 42 months

Budget (Optional):

IDB – US$ 1,800,000 Local Counterpart US$ 890,000 Total US$ 2,690,000

Name of Primary Contact Person:

Laura Bocalandro

Title of Primary Contact Person:

Coordinator, Regional Public Goods Program, Inter-American Development Bank


Washington, DC