Press Release

Experts Agree that Citizen Security is a Human Rights Issue

June 7, 2011

San Salvador- Experts from the region concurred that citizen security is a human rights issue and that public security policies need to include a gender focus, in presentations they made at a forum on "Citizen Security and Human Rights." The event took place on the eve of the 41st General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).

"Human rights should be understood as reference points that guide the actions of authorities and law enforcement officials, and as true indicators of State performance," said María Clara Martín, who heads the Americas Section, Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Forum participants called for implementing public policies that do not simply focus on the security phenomenon as a criminal or police matter, but offer a comprehensive response, focused on the prevention of violence and crime and on the underlying causes for the high rates of violence and criminal behavior.

In a panel discussion on "Women, Gender, and Citizen Security," the President of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), Rocío García Gaytán, said that "a focus on security that is based on the exercise of human rights necessarily involves the inclusion of gender-related violence in security policies, plans, and programs. The incorporation of a perspective on women's human rights and gender equality in security promotion and protection—from a standpoint of citizen security—is essential to ensure that women enjoy security on a full and equal basis."

In a panel on "Youth and Citizen Security," Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Rapporteur of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on the rights of Children, underscored the need to also incorporate into security policies a perspective of protecting children and adolescents. As examples of good practices in this area, Pinheiro mentioned some specific types of programs designed to address factors that lead to violence and crime. These include programs that promote nonviolent conflict-resolution techniques in educational settings; early childhood development programs and those providing support for families with children and youth at greater risk for crime or violence; and work being done with young people who have already committed crimes, through alternative sentencing programs that include reparations to victims and rehabilitation for victimizers.

Participants in the forum emphasized that the high rates of violence and criminality in many countries of the region undermine the rule of law and have led to a loss of the State's credibility as a source of security in the eyes of the people. This, in turn, has contributed to an erosion of the democratic progress made in recent decades in the region. In this regard, they indicated, the implementation of comprehensive citizen security policies is essential for the continuation of the democratic system.

The forum took place on Sunday, June 5, 2011, in the auditorium of the Casa Presidencial (Presidential House) of El Salvador. It was organized jointly by the CIM, the OHCHR, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIHR), and the IACHR.


No. 53/11