Adam Blackwell and Paulina Duarte
Complete document including tables, figures, and appendix can be found here Inequality and Security Blackwell- Duarte (First Edition). Text is below:
The Americas is a region that in recent decades has experienced significant progress in democracy and human development. However, the region is still beset by the problems of poverty and inequality; limited access to inclusive education and comprehensive health care; and gaps in access to justice, among other challenges. Despite the efforts of the Member States aimed at addressing these problems, much remains to be done to ensure that all citizens are able to meaningfully participate in the societies they live in. Indeed, these issues continue to prevent many individuals from being able to fully access their communities’ economic, social, and/or political spheres, leaving them socially excluded and disadvantaged. In its broadest sense exclusion refers to the removal of “someone from a place, to discard, reject, or deny opportunities.“
Social exclusion is linked to many of the criminal activity and violence problems that are present in our region, including high levels of homicides, kidnappings, and other crimes, and a disproportionate number of incarcerations. Under these circumstances, social exclusion becomes a form of structural and cultural violence which prevents thousands of people from achieving personal fulfillment. This structural violence disproportionately affects the society’s most vulnerable members, such as women, youth, and ethnic minorities. Members of organized crime groups and gangs have often responded to tough-on-crime government policies by recruiting and involving youth to partake in their criminal activities.
In developing effective and sustainable violence prevention initiatives to address social exclusion, we at the OAS, advocate a multidimensional approach. A multidimensional approach aims to ensure that in developing policies and programs, all at-risk stakeholders (particularly young persons), are included and provided with the opportunity to actively participate. Ensuring that our policies and programs are accessible to young people is imperative to addressing social exclusion. We must therefore design, manage, and implement policies in the area of public security for youth and by youth.
- SOCIAL EXCLUSION AND STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE
Human Security is the ability of ‘people to exercise these choices safely and freely –and be relatively confident that the opportunities they have today are not totally lost tomorrow’. When we talk about social exclusion in the context of our Hemisphere and its relation to security, we are referring to a process of exclusion which becomes structural violence. Within modern consumer societies, social exclusion can significantly limit access to the goods, services, and opportunities that are necessary for individuals to fully develop their potential to the point that their very condition as citizens is put at-risk. In this way, social exclusion negatively affects human security.
When people who are socially excluded see potential opportunities disappear, or when the gap between their own hard realities and that of other members of society continues to grow, some will react with violence and crime. Violence negatively impacts the level of human development in a country and the capacity of the state to provide public goods and services. Notably, a World Bank study found that poverty reduction in countries affected by high levels of violence is on average almost one percentage point slower per year than in countries not affected by violence. As the findings of the World Bank study suggest, violence leads to greater inequality and social exclusion (Annex 1), which as previously noted, results in more violence and crime. The result of social exclusion is therefore a vicious cycle of limited opportunities, crime and violence.
There are a number of other statistics that reveal the scope and impact that structural violence has had – and continues to have – on our countries, where 200 million people have been victims of a crime. For example, over 3.6 million citizens in this hemisphere are incarcerated, and globally 11 of the 15 countries with the highest rates of incarceration are OAS Member States. Perhaps more concerning is the number of minors that are currently incarcerated in the Americas: 124,360. The fact that almost 30% of those behind bars -over 1 million people- are convicted of drug crimes demonstrates some of the consequences of this scourge and the impact that it has on the societies of the Americas.
In addition to the World Bank study noted, many other studies have found a relationship between social exclusion, and violence and crime, which seem to suggest that addressing the former could lead to a decrease in the latter. For example, countries with low homicide rates achieve better and faster improvements in human development than countries with high homicide rates. Specifically, countries which on average have low homicide rates are 11% more likely to improve their position on the Human Development Index, compared to countries with higher rates of homicide. Moreover, countries reporting high levels of homicides are statistically associated with slower progress in achieving the following Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): eradicating extreme poverty, youth unemployment, and hunger (MDG 1); increasing rates of primary education (MDG 2); and reducing infant mortality and birth rates in adolescence (MDGs 4 and 5 ). Moreover, the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence noted that higher levels of development tend to be associated with reduced levels of homicide and violence. Specifically, countries that reported proportionally lower levels of income inequality and unemployment, also reported relatively low levels of homicide and violence. By contrast, the lowest levels of human development and income were reported in countries that noted high and very high levels of violence, particularly armed violence.
It bears noting that not all people are equally affected by the processes of social exclusion, violence, and crime. Some groups, either as victims or perpetrators, are particularly likely to be linked to contexts of violence and crime as a result of processes of social exclusion: these include young people, indigenous groups, LGBT groups, and visible minorities.
Ten years ago, in light of these concerning trends, Members States of the OAS proposed a multidimensional view of security. The proposed approach called for the broadening of the traditional concept and approach to security, a concept of security that moves beyond the traditional concept of state security by putting integrated approaches, personal well-being and positive outcomes at the center of our common agenda by encompassing “new and nontraditional threats, which include political, economic, social, health and environmental aspects”. As a result, in 2005 the Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, created the Secretariat for Multidimensional Securities. The Secretariat for Multidimensional Security has since aimed to implement the new security paradigm into the Hemisphere by strengthening the dialogue between stakeholders; achieving effective cooperation; facilitating the transfer of knowledge; providing technical assistance; and supporting the sharing of promising practices in the field of multidimensional security.
- CRIME AND VIOLENCE IN THE REGION: STATISTICAL OVERVIEW
The relationship between violence, poverty, inequality, injustice, and the rule of law has been studied in-depth by academic communities, governments, and international organizations. In the Americas, available statistical data support the hypothesis that countries with lower levels of violent crimes are those with greater levels of development and less income inequality.
However, the search for statistical data that would show a definitive relationship between violence, crime, and social exclusion faces a number of practical and methodological problems. Most official data lack periodicity, and in many cases, are merely records of events reported (administrative records), as such data corresponding to the region represents temporal trends that are not comparable. Still, it is possible to gather enough statistical information from a combination of administrative records and victim surveys to propose an approximate approach to the relationship that exists between violence and social exclusion.
Figure 1 shows the homicide rate per 100,000 in a population and its relationship to levels of poverty. The chart measures poverty in terms of GNI per capita (the income of a country in USD divided by its population). GNI per capita is closely linked with other indicators that measure the economic and social welfare of a country and its population; for example, people living in countries with a higher GNI tend to have longer life expectancy, better literacy, better access to drinking water, lower rates of infant mortality and, as may be seen in Figure 1, fewer homicides.
Between 2000 and 2013, more than four million people in the hemisphere died violent deaths (as a result of intentional and negligent homicide, traffic accidents and suicides). In 2012 alone, a total of 145,000 homicides were recorded in the 35 countries of the Americas, representing more than four homicides per day. The average homicide rate in the Western Hemisphere (16.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012) is five times greater than in Europe or Asia (Figure 2) and higher than the overall worldwide homicide rate (6.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012). Over the last three decades, the number of homicides has continued to hover around 150,000 per year.
While homicide rates were stable in the hemisphere as a whole during the last decade, some countries experienced significant changes internally, such as those of the Northern Triangle of Central America, and some countries of South America and the Caribbean. A significant number of homicides in the Americas have been linked to organized crime, particularly to arms and drug trafficking, kidnapping, human trafficking and contract killings. There are also significant differences at the sub regional level. Most of North America (except Mexico) experienced a significant decrease in homicide rates. Central America has been experiencing a steady increase in the homicide rate since 2007, resulting in one of the highest homicides rates currently being reported in the world (27 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012). In South America, the homicide rate was around 22 per 100,000 people, although trends vary by country. The analysis of national homicide data reveals a migration of the patterns of organized crime into the Hemisphere’s sub-regions where institutional weakness is less of a threat to such criminal activities.
Among 15-24 year old males, the homicide rate in the Americas is more than double that of the general population (Figure 4). In South America and the Caribbean, 15-24 year olds experience a rate of homicides three times higher than that of the overall population. The youth of the so-called “ni-ni” generation, who neither study nor work (ni estudian ni trabajan) are the main homicide victims in the Hemisphere.
The high incidence of young men who are killed in the Americas also seems to suggest the existence of a link between murders committed by gangs and organized crime groups. The statistics indicate that the social and age group most affected by the high levels of lethal violence characteristic of this region is young people, in particular young men who are socially excluded and have low levels of social mobility. The statistics that exist regarding the number of young people involved in deadly violence reveal that they are often perpetrators and victims. Indeed, the primary victims of most violent crimes (homicides) are young males who live in socioeconomic situations of exclusion, and in most cases the perpetrators are of these violent crimes derive from this same social group. Women, on the other hand, are disproportionately victimized by their partners, and are often victims of homicides related to domestic violence.
Other statistics worth noting are related to prisons. By their very nature, prisons are a tool of exclusion sanctioned by law, but this exclusion, which is meant to be temporary for a specific punishment that takes place throughout a specified length of time. However, beyond the short-term effects of the prison sentence, prisons have been proven to have considerable implications in the medium- and long-term that affect not only the incarcerated individual, but also the family and social environment to which inmates return to after serving their sentence.
The rupture with the wider world, which is an inevitable part of incarceration, makes it even harder to reenter and live positively once again in society. Given the current conditions of most prisons and prison systems in the region, a prison itself perpetuates or ensures the exclusion of the individual from the social and family context into which he is meant to reintegrate. In this context, we observed a considerable increase in the prison population throughout the region (both in aggregate numbers and in the ratio of inmates per 100,000 people). This trend affects youth and women in particular, who are being jailed at an increasingly younger age. High rates of recidivism among young men (15-24) reveal the failure of many prisons and prison systems in promoting social reintegration, and suggest that instead, prisons serve to perpetuate the cycle of exclusion.
The phenomenon of globalization has brought about greater prosperity and higher living standards in many parts of the world; however, it has also worsened the degree and the perception of social exclusion affecting other regions and social groups. Moreover, expanded access to electronic media and connectivity has lead to the risk of even further exclusion, since “acquiring these technologies is understood as the principal way of being integrated socially, whereas not owning them is understood as a form of exclusion.”
At the same time, the problems of crime and violence, which some years ago were addressed at the national or sub-regional level, have today evolved into global phenomena. Technology allows criminal activity in the hemisphere to have greater mobility, flexibility, and capacity to create threats. In this way, organized crime entities increasingly use global connectivity in their favor. The permeability of national borders, fewer restrictions on international trade, and the modernization of financial systems and telecommunications provide criminal organizations a greater opportunity to expand their operations beyond national borders. Thus, the region has become increasingly more vulnerable to illegal activities such as drugs, arms, and human trafficking, gang violence and other criminal activities. In this context, the use of technology by criminal organizations and the ease by which it can be used to facilitate the violation of laws, increases the economic and social damage that can result.
It also bears noting that illicit trade and organized crime are significant barriers to economic growth, as they impede legitimate market operations, undermine global supply chains, deplete natural resources, and threaten the stability of the market. The promotion of global economic growth and equity that results from the free market, as well as the role of investment and communications as drivers of growth, will not be effective if corruption, illicit trafficking, and transnational organized crime are not fought.
- SOCIAL EXCLUSION, VIOLENCE AND CRIME: THE IMPACT ON WOMEN, YOUTH AND ETHNIC MINORITIES
Poverty, a lack of opportunity, and a lack of access to education place women and girls in vulnerable situations and make them easy targets to be recruited into criminal activity. Indeed, women with low socio-economic and education levels are among the most vulnerable to members of society in terms of being included to partake in criminal operations, whether as victimizers or traffickers. Their increased participation in the drug trade (which in many countries represents more than 50% of all women inmates) is concerning. Their involvement in illegal distribution chains, along with increased personal consumption and the consequential decline of their physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing have hindered their opportunities for development. As a result, women are likely to fall into the vicious cycle of violence related to criminal activity.
Gender bias is evident in the data on violence, although frequently violence affecting women in the hemisphere is made invisible. Among the principal forms of violence are domestic violence, intimate partner sexual violence (including sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace), femicides, human trafficking, trafficking, sexual exploitation and institutional violence.
The most recent data to date regarding the prevalence of violence against women indicates that globally, 35% of women have experienced dating violence or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Moreover, the statistics indicate that 38% of all murdered females are murdered by their intimate partner. Reducing or eliminating this cycle of violence and murder will depend on reducing the economic and social vulnerability of women. In turn, reducing the vulnerability of women will require special efforts by government and civil society in the areas of security, education, employment, health, equitable development of rural areas, equal opportunities for men and women, as well as strengthening inter-institutional cooperation.
Similarly, countries in the Americas that collect crime statistics on ethnic minorities, have reported that minorities are over-represented in crime statistics and in the court system (both as perpetrators and victims), a trend that continues to grow. To illustrate this point and the impact of social exclusion, consider the following statistics:
- African-American males in the United States, as well as Afro-Brazilian men in Brazil, who have not completed school are more likely to end up incarcerated than to obtain steady employment.
- In the Americas, there are now more African- Americans in prison than there were slaves in the nineteenth century.
- Approximately 13% of the U.S. population is of African-American origin; yet make up 40% of the prison population.
- African-Americans and Hispanics, represent 60% of all prisoners in the United States, despite the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics represent approximately 30% of the national population.
- Census data confirms a large racial disparity: those who indicated being African-Americans are incarcerated nearly six times more often than those who identify as Caucasians.
- Nationally, African-Americans make up 26% of juvenile detentions, 44% of all detained youth, and 58% of youth in state prisons.
- If current trends continue, nearly 70% of young African-American men will be imprisoned at some point during their lifespan. For these ethnic minorities going to jail or prison has become almost mainstream; a sad reality that challenges the progress made in the post-Civil Rights era.
- Brazil the majority (74%) of all prison inmates are between the ages of 18-34 years, financially poor, African-American, and of have attained low educational levels. More than half of all prisoners in Brazil (66%) have not completed primary education.
- Only 4% of Canada’s population is of indigenous origin, yet make up 20% of prison inmates.
- One in three women in Canadian federal prisons is of indigenous origin, and in the last 10 years the percentage of Aboriginal women in prison has increased by almost 90%.
- While indigenous women make up only 6% of the juvenile female population in Canada, nearly half (44%) of young women in prison are indigenous.
- Ethnic minorities are also at a greater risk of being victims of violence if they live in households with lower annual incomes when compared with households having higher annual incomes.
The lack of prospects many groups of young people have for improvements in their lives, often result in violence and crime. This is particularly true in urban areas, where individuals face situations of social exclusion in regards to accessing the basic tools for development, such as education, and consequently results in limited employment opportunities due to a lack of skill. For young people with no access to the pathways for obtaining inclusion, and without prospects for a bright future, violence and crime facilitates the access of goods and opportunities from which they are legitimately excluded. Furthermore, the relationship between violence and the social context in which it is inserted leads to a vicious and circular interplay, in which violent environments are conducive to violent reactions on the part of youth.
The high rate of incarcerations in the region (some of the highest in the world, with many of the countries in the region having the highest percentages of their population behind bars) has another, often invisible consequence: children with one or more incarcerated parent. The lack of one or more of the principal caregivers in the come, increases the difficulty of ensuring the child’s needs are met, and as a result, many such children themselves fall into the cycle of violence and crime.
For this reason, and as is borne out by the statistics, young people who make up the so-called ni-ni generation (from the Spanish – ni estudian ni trabajan: (they) neither work nor study), are the main victims and perpetrators of homicides in the hemisphere. Facing this lack of inclusion, they find shelter by associating with groups where they find a sense of belonging. Gang membership – whether it be violent gangs or not, is an extremely attractive to young people in these circumstances.
In such circumstances, these various forms of exclusion are a threat to future governance and to the democratic system; in this sense the young people of the Americas may play the role of both victims and of disruptors. This, because youth “is the social and demographic group that suffers the most the crisis of expectations – as a result of the dissociation between schooling and employment, a greater consumption of images and low levels of material consumption, a higher level of exposure to information and low level of opportunities – [… ] may be disruptive in terms of social and democratic life,” particularly as this affects cycles of violence and crime. Contrary to this, broadening the participation and involvement of youth in social processes of education, employment, political participation, security, etc., would allow for strengthening democratic processes and security in the region.
Structural violence as a result of social exclusion can therefore only be reduced if and when:
a) The state is effectively able to freely and securely provide universal access to basic services (welfare assistance and safety), as well as opportunities for human development through social investments;
b) The dominance and extent of illegal economic activity can be reduced by implementing effective and inclusive laws that do not leave any group unprotected, and makes prevention policies a greater priority. These laws should be developed in contrast to the increasingly punitive measures that have been adopted, which to date have shown themselves to be ineffective in the medium and long term;
c) Respect for human rights is guaranteed; and
d) Specific attention is given to ensuring that in public policy groups and social sectors who are most affected are involved and able to participate.
In other words, the solution to the problem of insecurity is not necessarily found in greater levels of security (i.e. an increase in the number of police or other law enforcement agents), or in adopting tougher laws against crime. Instead, the solution is a matter of favoring more inclusive public policies, which will transform coercive approaches into community-based security, giving greater importance to policies of prevention over purely punitive approaches.
Furthermore, these recommendations entail an implicit challenge: the need to develop in citizens a set of beliefs and attitudes that will lead to voluntarily following the law. This culture of legality requires the State to have the ability to administer its legal processes in a fair and effective manner, while simultaneously expecting citizens to responsibly exercise their freedoms, and also recognize that their needs and rights are similar to those of other citizens. The result of this interaction between state and citizen makes for a new virtuous circle, where people’s active participation in public affairs is reinforced and leads to the possibility of breaking patterns of structural violence.
- YOUTH AS A FACTOR OF CHANGE TO BREAK THE PATTERN OF EXCLUSION, VIOLENCE, AND CRIME
As was seen in the statistics previously presented, as well as in numerous studies pertaining to social exclusion, violence, and crime in the region, young people are one of the most affected groups. This, which is understood to be a problem for the Member States of the OAS, may also be seen as an opportunity for our countries to work to create and put in place public policies that are oriented towards having young people be one of the key factors for change.
The counterpart to the problem of social exclusion is social inclusion, particularly, as we have seen, of young people who are the ones most affected by being deprived of social processes such as education, housing, health care, political participation, etc., all of which have a decisive impact on whether youth become involved in patterns of violence and crime, either as victims or perpetrators. Achieving the social inclusion of young people is therefore key to turning around the patterns of violence and crime in the region, as well as to the sustainability of democratic practices in the hemisphere.
Youth occupy an ambiguous place – they are both receivers of policies and agents of change. On the one hand, young people are seen as the passive recipients of multiple social processes, which include education, security and political participation. On the other hand, youth are understood to be strategic participants in developing safer societies. That is, even as society “restricts them to be recipients of various stages of training and discipline, at the same time schools and the media promote the myth of young persons who can be protagonists of change and promoters of new models of social interaction.”
In this context, the participation of young people in public security policies should be transversal or cross-cutting. It is necessary to create connections between those who manage and implement public policies on security and youth groups themselves, as well as to enhance opportunities for youth participation in generating public security policies, particularly those that directly affect youth. This approach requires making youth programs and policies available to youth, at a local level and in coordination with NGOs and volunteer groups, among others.
On the security agenda youth are often considered a problem rather than a solution to activities related to violence. Stigmatizing young people, particularly those with low income and education levels, only exacerbates the problem and feeds existing patterns of social and cultural exclusion against them, thus fueling and reinforcing structural violence.
Moreover, the economic and social costs of violence are often greater than the actual cost of programs for prevention or social reintegration of young people. Initiatives for violence prevention must be adopted using a more comprehensive approach, so as to ensure the inclusion and active participation of all at-risk stakeholders – first and foremost, young people not yet involved in criminal activities- in the process of fighting and preventing crime and violence. Community-based interventions should seek to modify and manage social behaviors to reduce all forms of violence. Effective interventions related to prevention that promote training for young people, a positive lifestyle and social and political participation will reduce their association with violent crime and negative peers.
In conclusion, it is crucial to acknowledge the capacity of young people to break themselves from the vicious circle of social exclusion, violence and crime, as well as to promote a positive understanding of young people as effective and essential stakeholders. Youth-related public policies should be designed, managed and implemented for youth and by youth in order to adapt the tools used, ensure a proper understanding of their needs, and promote a sustainable commitment to current and future actions.
- THE ROLE OF THE OAS
The Organization of American States has not been indifferent to the problems concerning the relationship between inequality, social exclusion, and insecurity. At the Special Conference on Security held in Mexico City in 2003, the OAS defined the concept of “multidimensional security,” which took into account the fact that security may not be understood as anything other than the security of the human person, and it can therefore be threatened by a number of factors that are not separate from those of social exclusion and inequality.
The Declaration on Security in the Americas, which addresses these concepts, explicitly states that “the basis and rationale of security is the protection of the human person …” adding that the conditions of this security “improve by fully respecting the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals, and by promoting economic and social development, social inclusion, education and the fight against poverty, disease and hunger…”
The creation in 2005 of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, within the General Secretariat of the OAS, was the institutional outcome of the Declaration on Security in the Americas. In keeping with these principles, the General Secretariat also coordinates and acts as the Technical Secretariat of the Mechanism for the Inter-American Convention against Corruption; the Monitoring Mechanism of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women; the Inter-American Convention against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials; the Hemispheric Plan of Action against Transnational Organized Crime; the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism of the Inter-American Commission for Control of Drug Abuse; the Meeting of National Authorities on Human Trafficking; the Meeting of Authorities responsible for Penitentiary and Prison Policies; the Meeting of Forensic Specialists; and Groups of Experts on Reduction of Demand for Drugs, Asset Laundering, Maritime Traffic and Precursor Chemicals.
Similarly, the OAS convenes the processes associated with the Meetings of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas and Ministers of Justice or Attorneys General of the Americas. These permanent forums for discussion and agreements allow the highest law enforcement and public security management authorities to identify the deepest causes of the problems of crime and violence in the Hemisphere and to generate consensus and coordinated action to face this challenge.
At its 41st regular session, held in San Salvador in June 2011, the General Assembly issued the “Declaration of San Salvador on Citizen Security in the Americas,” which specifically stated the will of the countries of the Hemisphere to confront insecurity by means of public policies focused on human beings, addressing the various origins of the problem and allowing the participation of a broad group of stakeholders. At its 43rd regular session, the General Assembly also adopted the “Declaration of Antigua Guatemala for a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas” and the resolution “Promotion of Hemispheric Security: A Multidimensional Approach.” The objective of both documents, as well as the stated commitment of the States of the Americas, is to promote effective policies to ensure the security of their people from the perspective of the security of the human person, while addressing the various causes of insecurity, including inequality and social exclusion.
An account of the efforts by the OAS to address the issue of security from a perspective that is both multidimensional and responsive to the evolution of this phenomenon within our region’s reality cannot fail to include the “Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas” issued by the General Secretariat in 2013, and which was prepared at the request of the Heads of State at the Sixth Summit of the Americas. The report noted, in essence, that the drug problem is complex and diverse, and requires a balanced public health approach and flexible policies in the search for solutions; solutions that while of a collective nature, take into account the diversity among our countries and the different needs each faces in regards to the drug problem. The report provided a starting point for important discussions regarding drug policy in the Hemisphere and has become a significant reference point for a broader debate.
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