EU support to Justice and Security Sector Reform in Latin America and the Caribbean

Lack of security in the Americas is a long-standing phenomenon, linked in particular to conquest, rapid settlement, control and exploitation of natural resources, the immensity of the new territories, poor economic prospects for large swathes of the population and the insufficiency of state action (notably in terms of good governance, rule of law and social fabric), all of which are combined with a high level of inequality.

Moreover, during the last few years many Latin America and Caribbean countries (the "LAC region") have been confronted with increasingly high levels of violence (which finds sometimes its roots in political armed conflicts such as in Colombia, Peru and Central America), notably when linked to international organised crime which has become an ever increasing threat in the region.

The proliferation of both conventional and organised crime is also a heavy burden on citizens, impeding their daily existence, the delivery of public services, their livelihoods, their growth and development processes. Efforts by households and firms to protect themselves against recurrent violence impose heavy economic burdens. In Central America, the security situation is particularly critical, and the number of private security companies has increased significantly in recent years. This results in a perverse situation in which there are more private security officers (an average of 245,000 people in Central America and 300,000 in Mexico) than police personnel. This situation is made worse by the large number of firearms circulating in the affected countries, with security agents being more part of the problem than its solution. Furthermore, crime and violence have a directly negative impact on the investment climate, which carries its own specific long term costs. 35% of firms in Latin America and the Caribbean identify crime as the major problem for their business activities, according to the World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that Latin American GDP per capita would be 25 percent higher if the region’s crime rates were equal to the world average. In a number of countries (such as Venezuela with an estimated 20,000 homicides in 2011) loss of life, particularly of people in the best productive age, is important, further affecting economic performance.

Another element is represented by the existence of armed gangs linked to violent crime and petty drug trafficking, as in Northern Central America or the Caribbean, where deportation of violent criminals from the US has contributed to the problem, in particular through the proliferation of the so called “Maras” (violent youth gangs) as well as to the availability of small arms and light weapons in Central America or Venezuela. In the case of organised crime, the illegal activities proliferate along the routes used to ship cocaine between producer countries and consumers (particularly in the US, Canada and the EU), but also increasingly in Latin America (Argentina,Chile and Brazil are becoming important consumers, the last one in particular) and the Caribbean. Most Bolivian cocaine is shipped to Brazil, both for Brazilian consumption and for shipping to Europe.

Unsurprisingly, security is nowadays viewed both by the governments and the citizens in Latin America and the Caribbean as one of the main challenges in the region. The states in the LAC region and in particular along the trafficking routes have launched strategies and plans to counter the cross-border security threats. Recognising that organised crime is a phenomenon which cannot be contained within the borders of specific countries, they have sought to confront it at a regional level with the help of their international allies.  However, the cross-border and regional cooperation mechanisms in the field of law enforcement and judicial cooperation are generally still very weak in the region, notably due to the lack of regional integration, of funding, of relevant national capacities and of mutual trust.

Today, drug and notably cocaine trafficking (which originates in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia where all coca and cocaine for the world market is produced), but also human and arms trafficking as well as money laundering represent very lucrative activities for criminal organisations. At the same time, a regional weak social fabric, with high levels of inequality and widespread acceptance of violence in society (including gender-based violence), contributes to high levels of conventional crime, which is negatively affecting both the investment climate (and economic growth) in the region, as well the human rights and well-being of citizens, especially the poor and most vulnerable populations.

As a consequence, democratic governance, the rule of law and stability are severely menaced by all the phenomena related to crime in the LAC region, where it has pushed some already unstable states to the brink of failure. The State institutions are often not sufficiently prepared to cope with the various security challenges and seem sometimes to be rather part of the problem than of the solution, notably when infiltrated by criminal organisations, or in cases where they may be perceived as having only limited democratic legitimacy because they represent rather the interests of the elites than of the whole population. Weak governance characterises the national justice and security systems of many Latin America and Caribbean countries at various levels, including: understaffed and underpaid security and judicial personnel leading to inefficiency and widespread corruption; badly trained and equipped (and sometimes over-militarised) security personnel; lack of planning capacity on strategy and budget; blurred separation of competencies between the military as well as law enforcement and judicial authorities; inadequate legal frameworks; lack of respect of rule of law and human rights; lack of access to justice, in particular for the poor people; etc.  These weaknesses contribute to explain also the high levels of impunity in many LAC countries, which further exacerbates the insecurity and lack of justice. Furthermore, violence is a hindrance to the exercise of fundamental freedoms: freedom of press, expression and association, the freedom to move and the free election of public office.

Given the security challenges faced by the LAC countries and their request for continuous support in this area, EU external aid in this region is expected to go on and may even further increase.

The present assignment is to support DEVCO G and other relevant EU services in the preparation of the future EU support to the security and justice sector in the LAC region under the next financial framework 2014-2020.

The purpose of the support is to:

1. carry out an independent study on the main characteristics (general features, strengths and weaknesses,…) and needs of the security and justice sectors in the LAC region, as well as of the support provided so far in this area by the EU during the 2007-2013 programming phase and other relevant donors over the same period;

2. provide a set of concrete recommendations on objectives and types of activities which could be envisaged by the EU in terms of future support in this area in the LAC region under the financial framework 2014-2020, which would address in particular the regional/sub-regional level under the DCI and also cover an analysis on possible implementation options.