Guatemala Government Confirms Positive Reception of Interpeace '12 Strategies' for the Prevention of Youth and Youth Gang Related Violence

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In response to the urgent need for prevention policies to address youth and youth gang related violence in Central America, the document '12 Strategies' detailing preventative policy proposals was positively received by representatives of the Guatemalan Government.

Guatemala Government confirms positive reception of Interpeace '12 Strategies' for the prevention of youth and youth gang related violence.

“We recognize that youth related violence is a major problem in our country. We’re going to take this document very seriously. We understand this is a great contribution to the Vice-Ministry, as it is this institution that is responsible for prevention"

The first in a series of preventative policies to cover the region, the document '12 Strategies' for the prevention of youth and youth gang related violence was received by Silvio Gramago, the Secretary of Transparency of the Guatemalan Vice-President. Mrs Olivia Malin, the Deputy Director of the National Youth Council, and Mrs Lorena Guerra, the Deputy Minister for Community Support, were also officially presented with the report.

The presentation of the document marked the culmination of a multi-sectoral dialogue process in which more than 200 representatives from 37 institutions, 59 organizations and 35 civil society and youth organizations took part. The majority of the dialogue process took place between October 2009 and September 2010 and was facilitated by Interpeace.
The presentation, held in Guatemala, was attended by over 400 people, including representatives of organizations involved in the process.

During the event an emotional tribute was made to all those young people who were involved in the multi-sectoral dialogue that contributed to the development of these recommendations, but who have since lost their lives.

A Government representative who received the report stressed the importance of violence prevention. “We recognize that youth related violence is a major problem in our country. We’re going to take this document very seriously. We understand this is a great contribution to the Vice-Ministry, as it is this institution that is responsible for prevention”, stated Mrs. Lorena Guerra, Deputy Minister for Community Support.

“For Guatemala, a country where over 70% of the population is under the age of 30, violence affecting youth as victims and perpetrators is a priority issue. Youth related violence is more than simply a question of public security. It is the result of social, public, political and economic problems that run deep within society,’’ explains Isabel Aguilar, Interpeace Director of the Regional Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Programme.

The search for solutions to the problem must be based on a holistic approach that addresses the factors that contribute to violence and, in turn, promotes strategies that foster the welfare and development of adolescents and youth. The responses to the problem of youth related violence have been largely reactive and repressive, and are not proving effective as they do not address the structural causes of the problem.

A traditional approach to addressing youth and adolescent related violence has been to take a repressive ‘mano dura’ approach. Isabel adds ‘’Violence breeds violence’’, which rings true as this approach includes actions that violate human rights, including:

  • The mass detention of youth, coupled with harsh jail sentencing, as it is often assumed that all youth are active in gangs;
  • Extra-judicial executions and practices of ‘social cleansing’, linked to groups associated with the police, which are carried out on children and youths.

-The repressive actions (“mano dura”) also include law initiatives such as the “anti-gang law” which, among other things, stigmatizes young people and infringes upon the right of association.

The aim of preventative policies is to focus on treating the root causes of violence. Public policies must be developed that will sustainably tackle the issue through a holistic approach by adding preventative measures to the existing reactive ones.

Primary, secondary and tertiary preventative policies provide the focus of the document. Examples include promoting art, culture and sports as a means of personal development and methods to prevent violence, promote access for adolescents and youth to preventative health services and prioritizing measures and sanctions other than imprisonment.

Recent studies have shown how deferent action considerably reduces the victim and crime indexes in the areas where these initiatives have successfully been run by the Guatemalan Government and NGOs.

Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace states: “It is the inclusive nature of the process that makes this initiative both legitimate and ground-breaking. The content harnesses the valuable insight and input from all levels and sectors of Guatemalan society. This report also stands out as it is the first step in taking a holistic, preventative approach across the region.”

Interpeace, an international peacebuilding organization, has been working with organizations in the Central American states of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua to address the growing problem of adolescent and youth violence, as well as the youth gang phenomenon in the region. The proposals are being used to influence policy development with the Government of Guatemala taking the findings on board.

For more information, high resolution photos or to arrange an interview please contact:
INTERPEACE HEADQUARTERS
Lisa Ross-Magenty Blaettler, Head of Communications
+41 22 917 8338 or +41 79 701 2597

INTERPEACE REGIONAL OFFICE FOR LATIN AMERICA - GUATEMALA
Arnoldo Gálvez Suárez, Communications Officer
Youth Programme for Central America
+502 23819700 or +502 59276663

About Interpeace
Created in 1994, Interpeace is an international peacebuilding organization, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, that plays a discrete role in helping societies war-afflicted societies to build lasting peace. Interpeace operates as an independent non-governmental organization and in partnership with the United Nations on specific programmes. The organisation works with 300 peace builders to implement programmes in 16 conflict and post conflict zones across the world:
Africa: Burundi, Rwanda, Guinea-Bissau, Somali Region, Liberia
Asia: Timor-Leste
Europe: Cyprus
Latin America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, and a regional programme for the prevention of Youth Violence
Middle East: Israel, Palestine
Interpeace also has an additional thematic programme on constitution building. http://www.interpeace.org and http://www.interpeace-lao.org/poljuve/

About the spokespeople
Scott M. Weber - Director-General of Interpeace.
Scott was appointed as Director-General in 2005 by the then-Chairman (2000-2009) of the Interpeace Governing Council, 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President Martti Ahtisaari. In recognition of his record of professional accomplishments, his commitment to society and his potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world through his inspiring leadership, Scott was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009. Each year the Forum recognizes "the 200 most distinguished young leaders below the age of 40 from around the world." Interpeace’s work has also been personally highlighted by H.E. President Bill Clinton at the 2006 and 2007 Clinton Global Initiative meetings as an innovative approach to conflict prevention. In 2010 Scott was nominated by the Governing Council, chaired by former President of Ghana, John A. Kufuor, for a second 5-year term as Director-General.
Scott began his career in the United Nations, first in disaster reduction and then in political affairs. Scott is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), The Chatham House (UK) and the Steering Committee of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the Center for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF). He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, Economics and Russian from Georgetown University. Scott is French and American.

Isabel Aguilar Umaña – Interpeace Director of the Regional Youth and Gang violence Prevention Programme.
Isabel received her M.A. in Human Rights in San Carlos University. She has more than ten years of experience in designing and facilitating diverse dialogue processes for the post conflict context in Guatemala, including the discussions towards a National Policy on Rural Development and the National Policy on Women. She specializes in public and political dialogue, mediation, negotiation and systematization of experiences and lessons learned within these processes. She has published several books and articles related to peace-building, conflict, post-conflict and human rights issues. She has also held several consulting positions for national and international institutions.

Wendy Cuellar - Interpeace Political Officer – Guatemala.
Wendy received her M.A. in Public Policies from Rafael Landívar University, Guatemala, and has a Law Degree from the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. She has also specilalized, as a post graduate, on international issues of development, human rights, justice and security. Recently she was in charge of the coordination of the National Youth Policy of Guatemala. Wendy has broad work experience in technical and managerial positions in state, civil and international organizations. She was Director of the National Council of Adoptions, Secretary of Social Affairs, Programme Officer of UNDP in charge of the portfolio of Justice and Human rights projects, facilitator at the National Commission of Justice, and was a researcher and analyst at the National Commission of Human Rights (COPREDEH). In addition, she has worked in several international consulting positions including: USDOL, IAB, WB, the UNDP, and IPEC-ILO among others.

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Lisa Ross-Magenty-Blaettler

Arnoldo Gálvez Suárez
Interpeace - Guatemala
+502 23819700
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