–latest UN report reveals
DESPITE being home to just nine per cent of the world’s population, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has been found to be the most violent region of all, as it accounts for one-third of the world’s homicides.
This is according to the latest report published by the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP).
The report bases its observations on three types of violence, namely criminal, political and social and domestic. As it goes on to explain, LAC countries struggle with non-lethal forms of violence, including sexual violence, robberies, police abuse, and human trafficking.
According to the data provided, the 20th Century was largely characterised by patterns of political violence, which shifted more towards organised crime in the early 2000s, primarily the involvement in illicit or illegal commercial activities, such as drug trafficking.
The UNDP maintains that the LAC region still struggles with political violence, including violent protests, acts of state-sponsored violence, such as police brutality, extrajudicial killings, and violent repression of protest, and violence against human rights defenders, environmental activists, politicians, and journalists.
The report, issued last week, says that violence in the region is a common underlying factor that is propelled and driven by the region’s high levels of inequality and “low-growth trap”.
“While greater inequality can spur violence, violence can also increase inequality through its effects on developmental outcomes. Because it is often experienced disproportionately by populations already facing socio-economic adversities, it contributes to amplifying or perpetuating the state of deprivation of these populations,” the report notes.
It specifies, too, that violence often leads to the deterioration of rights and liberties, which can in turn lead to worsened physical and mental health, a reduction in educational and labour participation outcomes, as well as lower political participation among victimized individuals.
“Violence can also fracture social capital, threaten democratic institutions locally and nationally, and obstruct public goods provision in victimized communities,” the UNDP report notes.
It recognises that inequalities in power, social status, and income make some population groups—such as women and gender, and ethnic minorities—particularly vulnerable to violence.
“Social and domestic violence is widespread in the region and particularly affects women. This type of violence often manifests in different ways, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, which can be motivated by the victim’s sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” the report, titled: Trapped, outlines.
It makes specific reference to the fact that in most LAC countries, more than one out of every 10 women has been sexually or physically abused by her most recent partner. The region also has some of the highest rates of sexual violence, and violence against LGBT+ populations in the world.
Also not spared from the regional realities are children and the elderly, who have become increasingly vulnerable in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the curfews and lockdowns that it inspired. The report also examines the efficacy of social protection policies in LAC; it said that over the years, many policies have been implemented to address inequality and low productivity, but most, with limited success.
“Given the political incentives for short-term policy solutions to combat the challenges of high-inequality and low-productivity, policy responses tend to be fragmented and ineffective and, in some cases, can even end up deepening existing distortions,” the report highlighted.
It said too that many of these policies have generated dynamics that have resulted in exacerbated inequalities and stagnated productivity. Importantly, it acknowledged segmented labour markets to not only be a source of inequality, but also one of the contributing factors in low productivity growth. “In parallel, some worker incomes may be so low as to place the workers in poverty, requiring additional programmes to increase their consumption [of] social assistance programmes,” the UNDP said.
The report, although troubling, recognised that “Progress is possible.” However, this can only be achieved if the “policies adopted address the underlying imbalances of power between actors to foster conditions in which conflicts may be settled through peaceful rather than violent mechanisms.”
Since taking office in August 2020, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud has placed specific emphasis on tackling the scourge of violence. Her efforts birthed ‘914’ hotline which has been specially designed to respond to cases of violence, whether committed against men, women, or children.
Dr. Persaud also launched a support system for victims of sexual and domestic violence; as a result, those persons now have access to an outlet which allows them to be guided and supported by past victims who want to help.
The Human Services Ministry has also strengthened its partnerships with law enforcement agencies to ensure rapid response and prosecution of sexual and domestic violence crimes.