OAS and UNODC consider
violent crime in the Americas
Experts from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) today weighed the significance for the Americas of the Global Study on Homicide which was recently released by UNODC. The Study emphasizes that the situation in the Western Hemisphere is critical, as in some regions citizen security continues to be threatened by increasing rates of violent crime. If the same level of crime persists in countries with high murder rates in the Americas –especially involving firearms such as in Central America– 1 in 50 males aged 20 will be killed before reaching the age of 31. This risk is roughly 400 times higher than that of a man in some parts of Asia, where homicide rates are among the lowest in the world.
The two organizations used the Study’s data as a springboard for action to support countries and to increase citizen security in the region. The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, opened the meeting by asserting that “there can be neither public policies or strategies without adequate evidence of the realities that must be changed,” a principle “especially necessary within the scope of citizen security, since the goal is to define actions that can affect directly and daily the lives and wellbeing of thousands of persons.” He added that “on matters of security we must be very careful and always rely on clear and trustworthy information.”
The head of the hemispheric Organization recalled that, in search of this objective, the OAS in 2007 created the Hemispheric Observatory on Security, which since 2009 publishes on the Web site www.alertamerica.org all the official information of the region collected and systematized for its use by the continent’s authorities in charge of these matters. “For a year we have joined our efforts to systematize and diffuse this information with the efforts of UNODC in this endeavor and with a global perspective. Today we can show an expression of this effort of cooperation between our two organizations, contained in the information on the Americas in the Global Report on Homicides 2011 of the United Nations,” he said.
In addition, Secretary General Insulza warned of the high rate of homicides by firearms in America, located in 74%, so he called to combat illicit arms trafficking.
Following Secretary General Insulza’s presentation, the following experts participated in the debate: Adam Blackwell, OAS Secretary of Multidimensional Security; Antonio Mazzitelli, UNODC Regional Representative for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; and Enrico Bisogno, one of the leading authors of the study from UNODC.
“Based on the existing evidence, the OAS has developed important instruments destined to support its Member States in registering and destroying firearms,” Adam Blackwell said. “The Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials” is the regional framework in which we develop our efforts, Blackwell added.
Antonio Mazzitelli noted that knowledge of the patterns and causes of violent crime are crucial to forming preventive strategies. “The Study shows that organized crime is affecting an increasing number of countries in the Americas which in turn leads to a spill over of violence onto the streets. The evidence in front of us gives us an opportunity to better understand the magnitude of the problem including who is most at risk and where so that we might improve our responses to crime in general and violence in particular,” he said. On behalf of UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, Mr. Mazzitelli also spoke on the unnecessary fatalities caused by gun crime: “The proliferation of weapons is a big problem in many regions of the world. There are, however, international legal instruments available to countries which can help halt these deaths. The Firearms Protocol for instance can help avoid the diversion of guns which ultimately lead to intensified violence and increased homicides.”
Meanwhile, Adriana Mejia, Director of Public Security of the OAS, highlighted the importance of cooperation between the countries of the hemisphere in compliance with the provisions of the Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, ammunition, Explosives and other Related Materials (CIFTA), especially in the national register of firearms.
In addition Ms. Mejia recalled that on 17 and 18 November in Trinidad and Tobago the ministers responsible for Public Security in the Americas will meet to address the issue of police management, a key issue to lower the homicide curve in the region.
Enrico Bisogno of UNODC highlighted how the statistics and the analysis presented in the Study can support the formulation of prevention policies. ”We now have evidence of what causes violent crime in the Americas: homicides by firearm and organized crime but also human development, income inequality, economic performance, and gender disparities have strongly affect homicide rates among both men and women. These are the elements that we need to address if we want to reduce violent crime in the region”.
During the debate, the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OAS, Ambassador Joel Antonio Hernandez Garcia, said that he was pleased with the coordination of work between the OAS and UNODC, and stressed that the Government of Mexico is committed to the strengthening of agencies generating information on public safety, especially through the Center for Excellence in Government Statistics, Public Safety, Victimization and Justice of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico (INEGI) and the UNODC.
According to the Global Report on Homicide 2011 (available here), 31 percent of the 468,000 homicides registered globally happened in the Americas. The study also shows that young men, particularly in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, suffer a greater risk of dying by intentional homicide, but that women are more at risk of being murdered in episodes of domestic violence. Regarding the growing number of homicides in Central America and the Caribbean, the report shows that nearly three of every four murders are committed with a firearm, the highest rate of any region in the planet.