Author: Verónica Bagnoli of Equidad para la Infancia, December 9 2015 - Crime and criminality acquired a connotation of "epidemic" in Brazil and other Latin American countries, the reason being great social unrest. For the first time in decades, crime has replaced unemployment as the main concern of the people of this region. [1] Homicide rates are increasing in most Latin American countries, adding, per year, more than 10 murders per 100,000, a rate considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an epidemic level of violence.

The increase in violence and crime in Latin America requires a multidimensional explanation that refers to the relationship between various socio-economic factors (such as job insecurity, persistent inequality and insufficient social mobility in a context of economic growth based on consumption); and social factors (loss of the ability of families, schools and cities to foster the strengthening of the social fabric, cooperation and positive coexistence between people). This helps to create an environment conducive to violence and crime. Collaborating to increase violence and crime, are the presence of firearms, trafficking in drugs and alcohol and the institutional weaknesses of the state related to corruption, impunity and lack of balance between the offenses committed and penalties associated with them.[2]

Security policies, as a means by which public power to deal with these serious problems, can take different directions. The repressive and punitive approach taken in the region in recent decades failed in its objective of reducing levels of violence and crime. At the same time, it had a negative impact on democratic coexistence and respect for human rights.

In this context, the children and adolescents have always been and continue to be particularly affected by the ways in which public security policies are defined and implemented, as well as the daily violence that crosses their living spaces. This situation deserves special attention and in-depth discussion that contributes to its transformation through a set of integrated actions between the state and society.

Therefore, we want to contribute to a reflection based on a human rights perspective, regarding violence and its impact on public safety - a perspective applied such that priority is given to the protection of all persons, including children and adolescents as subjects of special protection, and not the defense of the State. [3]

Faced with these realities and needs, we share the results of the publication Políticas de Segurança e Direitos Humanos: Enfocando a Primeira Infância, Infância e Adolescência [4]  with the aim of promoting in-depth discussion and a more complex understanding of the phenomena in question, to contextualize them in political and socio-economic scenarios, analyzed in the light of the historical inequities of class, race, ethnicity, gender, geography, etc.

Some recommendations so that public security policies and respect for human rights accompany each other:

  • Develop security policies with a comprehensive approach that includes preventive measures, institutional reforms, sufficient public investment, modern information systems and intervention to address the needs in the short, medium and long term.
  • Promote mobilization and ensure social participation, including participation of the children and young people in the formulation of policies, thus augmenting their social control of themselves.
  • Promote equality, equity and social justice, creating more and better development opportunities for all people.
  • Expand opportunities for development for youth through the provision of quality education, decent work opportunities, access to culture and sports, etc.
  • Overcome urban segregation and denominate spaces as public, making them more attractive and safe.
  • Advance the demarcation of the territories of ethnic groups, and strengthen public policies to ensure their rights.
  • Move towards policies and actions to deconstruct, in all social and institutional areas, discriminatory and racist cultural patterns.
  • Promote intersectoral alliances and those between different levels of government.
  • Strengthen the exchange of experiences and dialogue between government, civil society, academia and social movements.
  • Promote advocacy to achieve legislative changes and judiciary/legal changes needed to ensure inclusive policies and laws.
  • Promote reforms in the socio-educational system for adolescents who commit crimes, ensuring the protection of their rights and resocialization.
  • Reduce impunity and ensure an accessible, fast and effective justice, to ensure all procedural rights.
  • Demilitarize the police, instituting reform processes that prioritize human rights and public security as well as mechanisms of social control of it.


Security policy and human rights of children and adolescents in Brazil and Latin America

The publication Políticas de Segurança e Direitos Humanos: Enfocando a Primeira Infância, Infância e Adolescência is the product of collective and connected reflection between various stakeholders. The document was prepared jointly by Equidad de la Infancia y la Red Nacional de Primera Infancia (RNPI - Equity for Children and the National Network for Early Childhood), with the collaboration of CIESPI/PUC-Rio (Centro Internacional de Estudios e Investigaciones sobre la Infancia - International Centre for Studies and Research on Children) and the Instituto Arcor Brasil, with support from Instituto C&A.

The document seeks to share experiences and knowledge acquired in the course of conducting two Latin American colloquia [5] on security policy and human rights of children and adolescents in Latin America, systematizing and socializing the main reflections and questions that emerged in this path.

Among the central themes and debates addressed in the publication are the following:

  • The invisibility of early childhood in debates and policies.
  • The stigmatization and criminalization of black youth and adolescence and [economically] poor and remote communities.
  • The logic that supports the growing demands of reducing the penal age.
  • Urban segregation, lack of public spaces and non-effectuation of the right to play.
  • The role of the media.
  • The demilitarization of the police and the construction of a citizen security.
  • The need to ensure the protection of children in all circumstances.


Through this publication, the organisation Equidad para la Infancia, reinforces its commitment, with the production of plural knowledge and intersectoral coordination (between government, academia, civil society and social movements), to have the certainty that it is necessary, through exchanges between the different positions and knowledge, that can build partnerships and effective alternatives capable of improving the living conditions of Latin American children and teenagers.


[1]   OEA (2009). Informe sobre Seguridad Ciudadana y Derechos Humanos. Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH).

[2] PNUD  (2014) Informe de Seguridad Ciudadana con Rostro Humano: Diagnóstico y Propuestas para América Latina.

[3] Maria Thereza Marcilio (2015) La primera infancia ausente del debate sobre las políticas de violencia y seguridad.

[4] Equidade para a Infância & RNPI (2014) Políticas de Segurança e Direitos Humanos: Enfocando a Primeira Infância, Infância e Adolescência. 

[5] El primero ocurrió en São Paulo en septiembre del 2011 ( Y el segundo se llevó a cabo em Rio de Janeiro, en marzo del 2013 ( El I Coloquio surgio a partir de una invitación de Equidad para la Infancia América Latina, y fue co-organizado por el Instituto Arcor Brasil, la Fundación Arcor Argentina, la Red Nacional Primera Infancia (RNPI), y el Instituto C&A y tuvo el apoyo de CIESPI/PUC-Rio y ANDI Comunicación y Derechos. Sus resultados animadores prepararon el terreno para la realización del II Coloquio, dando seguimiento a los debates del primer año. Este segundo evento fue organizado por Equidad para la Infancia, CIESPI/PUC-RIO, PUC-RIO, la Red Nacional Primera Infancia (RNPI), Instituto Arcor Brasil y Fundación Arcor, con el apoyo del Instituto C&A, la Fundación Bernard van Leer, Avante Educación y Mobilización Social y ANDI Comunicación y Derechos.