In recent years, Central America has become the most violent region in the world. Honduras leads this deadly trend with the world’s highest murder rate of 86 per 100,000 in 2011. Increasing criminal violence and high levels of impunity have become so pervasive that citizens increasingly feel powerless to alter the grip of gangs, transnational criminal organizations, and corrupt officials. This corrosive combination of spreading violence and an increasingly resigned public threaten the security and prosperity of Honduras, potentially exacerbating trends of illegal immigration, trafficking in all forms of illicit contraband, and gang activities that reach into the U.S. CSO’s engagement complements programming being implemented by the Honduran Government, the U.S.-funded Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and related U.S. citizen security assistance programs, as well as the Bilateral U.S. – Honduras Human Rights Working Group. CSO supports U.S. government efforts seek to create momentum to enable Hondurans to take ownership of, and address, the growing levels of crime and violence.
CSO efforts support Government of Honduras initiatives to address security issues and perceptions of security at both national and community levels to help transform the prevailing national narrative from one of fear, resignation, and powerlessness to one of empowerment, civic responsibility, and opportunity. CSO bolsters efforts that concretely demonstrate how the Hondurans themselves are reducing impunity and violence. The amplification of community-level successes promotes a sense of hope, empowerment, and greater citizen participation in security efforts. Effective communication of these efforts increases awareness of what is being done about violent crime, demonstrates how individuals and law enforcement authorities together can break cycles of violence, and promotes viable citizen security and prevention programs that can be replicated in other high-crime communities in Honduras.
In order to achieve these ends, CSO is engaging with Honduran citizens and national and municipal governments along four lines of effort:
1. Increase the Effectiveness of Public Security Reform Efforts. CSO is supporting the most promising opportunities for security reform in order to strengthen host-country efforts to demonstrate improvements in the Honduran government’s transparency, accountability, and responsiveness while providing substantive steps toward reducing violence and impunity.
2. Show that Locally-Driven Efforts to Reduce Violent Crime Can Succeed. CSO’s work amplifies U.S. and local efforts in priority communities where there is a high likelihood of success for catalyzing significant near-term increases in security. In Tegucigalpa, CSO supports an NGO building a network of community residents willing to collaborate with local law enforcement in the area of crime reporting, which will lead to a greater number of crimes being reported and investigated. CSO also funded a TechCamp in January; over the course of the two-day program, civil society organizations and local technologists worked together to identify gaps in civilian security and brainstorm solutions to systemic issues using cheap, powerful open source solutions.
3. Transform the National Narrative to Hope and Empowerment to shift the perceptions from despair and powerlessness as more citizens receive credible messages of progress and positive change, both from community-led initiatives and national-level programs to strengthen the effectiveness of law enforcement and rule of law institutions. CSO’s work focuses on supporting government communicators to improve their ability to connect credibly and effectively with the people; and enhancing the ability of the Alianza por la Paz y la Justicia, an alliance of dozens of leading NGOs, to mobilize popular support for reform and new responses to violent crime.
4. Expand Honduran Judicial and Investigative Capacity. CSO is providing mentors/technical advisors in the short-term to two Honduran Task Forces that are working to investigate and prosecute to conviction criminal organizations that are undermining citizen security. CSO’s advisors are amplifying longer-term support provided by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).