Cities in Mexico, Colombia and South Africa share good practices on community safety

Cities in Mexico, Colombia and South Africa share good practices on community safety. Photo: Orbon Alija.

30 May 2019 - Today, over 55 per cent of the world's population lives in urban areas; by 2050, this is set to increase to more than two-thirds. While urbanization brings with it economic growth and prosperity, it also presents a range of challenges. Cities are often home to high levels of income inequality, violence, and organized criminal groups.

An important element of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) effort to address these challenges and to bolster the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular those on promoting peace, justice and safe cities, is the project "Evidence-based policies to improve community safety in Latin American and African Cities."

The initiative, which is jointly implemented by UNODC and UN-Habitat in Cali (Colombia), Durban (South Africa) and Querétaro (Mexico), aims to promote community safety through local safety audits that actively involve community stakeholders in the collection of crime-related data.

Local safety audits aim to offer an in-depth picture of crime trends and risk factors to, in turn, provide for the development of evidence-based strategies targeting distinct groups, including at-risk youth and gangs, and the strengthening of local, government-led crime prevention and urban safety policies.

A review workshop of the project was held from 13 to 14 May in Querétaro, bringing together representatives from the local authorities of each city and of UNODC and UN-Habitat, who presented the main findings of the safety audits, received feedback from their peers, and discussed challenges faced, lessons learnt and the way forward.

In his opening remarks, Antonino de Leo, Representative of the UNODC Liaison and Partnership Office in Mexico, described local safety audits as an opportunity to contribute to urban safety, strengthen communities and government institutions.

Eduardo López Moreno, representative of UN-Habitat in Mexico, stressed the close and complementary relationship between UNODC and UN-Habitat, as well as the need to transform spaces to reduce violence and increase social cohesion, thereby advancing towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Municipal President of Querétaro, Luis Bernardo Nava Guerrero, presented the city's efforts to reduce violence through a preventative approach, which was further illustrated by visits from workshop participants to different prevention initiatives within the city.

In Cali, a key finding of the safety audit was the classification of criminal structures in the city based on the United Nations Convention against Corruption typology of organized crime groups, which uses their permanence in time, the type of relationship among groups, their resources and geographical characteristics as guiding criteria.

In Durban, the audit identified unemployment, poverty, and drug abuse as the main risk factors associated with violence in the municipality, and it found that perceptions of crime did not always match actual crime prevalence rates.

In Querétaro, the safety audit identified problems related to the urban environment, and highlighted historical trends in different modalities of violence, theft, and drugs trafficking, providing specific policy recommendations aligned with 32 specific targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

During the discussion at the event, the three cities agreed on the importance of securing political commitment from the local authorities to adopt and implement the recommendations resulting from the participatory diagnosis. Participants outlined the major steps ahead for the government, together with the technical support of the UN, to ensure sustainability of project results and an improvement of community safety. The Project, coordinated by UNODC, is funded by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York.

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For further information about the project, please contact: Lucia.gonzalez[at]un.org , Justice Section, Division for Operations, UNODC.

Further Information:

Findings of the local safety audits Cali (in Spanish)

Findings of the local safety audits Querétaro (in Spanish)

Sustainable Development Goals