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Latin America: So that violence will no longer be inevitable

Source: Terre des hommes (Tdh) - Switzerland - Wed, 6 Feb 2013 10:48 AM
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

_odile-meylan_34_Web_98042.jpg The arrival of Terre des hommes in Nicaragua in 2008 continued our presence in Latin America. The Foundation has been working for more than 30 years in Peru, Colombia, Brazil and in Ecuador. In spite of a society corrupted by violence, many interventions carried out by Tdh made it possible to change attitudes about children and adolescents. Whether it is fighting against sexual exploitation, the social reintegration of children in a street situation, helping youngsters who have no family support or of changing the views of society about young people in conflict with the law, the teams of Tdh in Latin America are always committed to promoting the best interests of the child.

Violence corrupts society

Although some countries of the region, such as Brazil and Peru, have known considerable growing economic rates in the past few years, violence, in all its forms, remains an endemic issue in Latin America. This is the same for young Colombians who are the victims of the armed groups that exacerbate the violence in many communities. A study made by the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) dating from 2011, shows that the region records the world’s highest rate of homicides committed by firearms (74% of the homicides). In general, the rate of urban violence is constantly increasing and young people are frequently the first victims of social injustice and social inequality. Unemployed and on the streets, members of gangs or armed groups, victims of sexual trafficking or put away in prisons, numerous children and adolescents in Latin America are completely left to their own resources. International laws have, however, been ratified by the States and adapted to the national constitutions, but their implementation remains extremely laborious for political, economical or technical reasons, or in the case of young persons in conflict with the law, under social pressure that demands harsher measures of repression.

We do not stand by idly

In association with the public and social players, Tdh has the advantage of considerable experience in child protection, the fight against sexual exploitation, establishing restorative juvenile justice or aiding the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia, Tdh’s activities in each of these countries always takes into account its own characteristics. Although the Latin America continent is characterized by a valuable social and cultural diversity, all the people of the region share a strong Latin identity. The various projects are thus based on this fact and the final conclusions often prove to be useful beyond the state borders.

To take the example of juvenile justice, Terre des hommes is committed to justice that is educational rather than repressive, that takes into account the interests of the victims and the need to reintegrate the youngsters in conflict with the law into society. In Peru ,Tdh is fighting to have the rights of the child respected in the media, and is proposing alternative measures to imprisonment. In Brazil ,teams are developing and spreading knowledge of the restorative practices aimed at a resolution of conflicts via participation, dialogue and the responsibility of the parties, within the system of justice, in marginalized areas and in schools. Finally, in Nicaragua ,emphasis is placed on support for the judiciary and members of the prison administration in constructing standards for respect for child rights, with an IT tool that ensures maintaining good practices. Like the Nicaraguan model also used in Ecuador or the new Peruvian perspectives in the matter of restorative juvenile justice being developed in Colombia, interactions can be created and the benefits of the project are able to be utilized by other delegations.

In the context of a crisis, favouring isolationism and a rise in the feeling of insecurity, the tendency is to be over-repressive, especially when dealing with young people in conflict with the law. Tdh opposes this view, which can only generate more violence and the repetition of offences. The Terre des hommes teams are convinced that inevitability should not be the sole fate reserved for the children and adolescents of Latin America.

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