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The initiative allowed developing brainstorming sessions about issues related to urban violence based on different approaches

On last April 19th, 20th and 21st, took place in Madrid the first World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace. This initiative, organized by the city of Madrid in collaboration with the city council of Paris, has served as a meeting point between local leaders, organisms, civil society and academy, with the aim to debate and reflect jointly on the different expressions of urban violence and identify appropriate solutions to promote safer and more human urban spaces.

The forum, open to all, relied on debates and reflections through plenary sessions, round tables or exposition of experiences, with the organization of workshops and cultural activities related to dance, poetry or music. Through the participation of more than 400 international experts from 40 countries, topics related to urban violence were addressed from different approaches (youth gangs’ violence, youth violence and school bullying, violence due to racism and xenophobia, international terrorism violence, gender violence, lgbtphobia, urban inequity and public spaces’ violence and violence towards displaced and refugees). Concretely, in the discussion panel focused on youth gangs’ violence, interesting experiences from Colombia, Brazil or Guatemala have been exposed. They base their work approach on the analyze of structural factors contributing to youth gangs’ violence as a starting point for a prevention work.

These structural causes, which are the origin of youth gangs’ violence and represent common elements to different places, can be: youth population vulnerability circumstances, social problems, weaken familiar structures, difficult access to education, health or employment, lack of jobs opportunities, etc. However, it is essential to have a deeper knowledge of the context in which we work to make an appropriate analyze of particular structural causes and of the dynamics and risk factors impacting youth violence. Indeed there are contexts in which the presence of drug trafficking (production, transit or consumption of drugs), the easy access to weapons, the acceptance of coexistence with armed groups, etc, are determining factors and it is also necessary to have an appropriate impact on them. According to this approach, the importance of developing strategies from the local area is becoming evident, joining initiatives from local institutions in coordination with civil society.

The experiences described show that, after the analysis of structural factors, the most successful approach of violence prevention is the integrated approach, through which these causes are analyzed from different areas, working with a child from earliest ages (4 years old) and with the family, also through school and in coordination with the community and the local public bodies. In addition, integrated prevention is developed through the strengthening of different aspects: increasing of education and jobs opportunities, encouragement of artistic and sport activities, facilitation of dignified recreational areas – safe enough to organize meeting between children and young people and community – improvement of public lighting in the streets, strengthening of family ties, etc. Framed in this integrated approach, an evident but essential aspect in the violence prevention work is the permanent closer dialogue with young people, to understand better logic of their dynamics, to know in depth their interests, frustrations, fears and motivations, handle their languages and codes, etc. T

his proximity and knowledge is what makes possible the elaboration of effective public policies supposing a change of paradigm in their context. It is crucial, in this sense, to have the participation of youth and communitarian associations, together with the public bodies’ initiatives, encouraging the coexistence in the peace building process.

The prevention of youth violence from this integrated approach has been applied to the strategic activity developed from 2003 to 2014 in the Programmes Pro Jóvenes (phase I and II) funded by the European Union in El Salvador, and supported by the Technical Assistance led by Eptisa. These Programmes intended to give an answer to the serious situation of violence experienced in several communities from the metropolitan area of San Salvador. Pro Jóvenes has been characterized by the introduction of innovative elements and strategies in its work, featuring the youth population and relying on the municipalities of the communities where the prevention and support interventions took place.

The key factors that allowed this effective work of prevention of youth violence and to which the Pro Jóvenes project provided a greater attention were the communitarian development, the education to coexistence, the recovery of public spaces and conservation of environment, the labor integration and the improvement of opportunities and labor relations, among others. Furthermore, Pro Jóvenes has encouraged and boosted the creation of a community technicians networks, youth facilitators and community volunteers to have a direct impact on the areas where the problem had its origin, giving way to a sound network that contributed in a significant way to the increase of social cohesion in the territory. 


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Mélanie Romat
15 June 2017

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