Judicial Reform and the Empowerment of Victims
Zagreb, 28-29 Nov. 2012
European experts share success stories in reducing armed violence
Good practices to support global campaign under the Geneva Declaration
Photo (left): UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia Louisa Vinton and Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Mario Nobilo (photo by Vjeko Ziljak)
"Armed violence is a term that covers both conflict and crime, and indeed it is a distressing statistic that 490,000 of the 740,000 global deaths each year that are the result of armed violence take place in countries that are not at war or in conflict," said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia Louisa Vinton in opening the seminar. "The human, economic, and social costs are staggering, so finding ways to reduce these numbers is a priority for UNDP worldwide and a core part of our development mission."
"What kind of development can exist if armed violence prevails in schools, empties markets, burdens health services, destroys families, weakens the rule of law and prevents humanitarian assistance from reaching people," said Swiss Ambassador Denis Knobel. "The annual cost of violent crime and interpersonal violence is estimated at $163 billion, Knobel noted, and thus exceeds the total value of OECD members' development aid in 2009.
Photo (left): Swiss Ambassador Denis Knobel (photo by Vjeko Ziljak)
Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Mario Nobilo noted that Croatia had developed unique experience in peace-building activities in its first 20 years of independence. This experience included lessons learned in fighting the illicit possession of small arms and light weapons, tasks Croatia had to undertake both because of the legacy of firearms from the 1991-95 war and owing to Croatia's situation in a transit region for gun smuggling to Western Europe. Control over small arms, he said, is a "key precondition for the security and stability of every state."
In presenting the origins and role of the Geneva Declaration, Luigi De Martino, Coordinator of the Geneva Declaration Secretariat, underlined that security is a precondition for human development. However, he also stressed that armed violence is not a threat just for developing countries; it is a challenge that all countries face. A life free from violence is a basic human right, De Martino continued, and providing for the human security of citizens has been recognized as the core responsibility of governments. This explains the high importance of understanding what works and what does not in preventing armed violence.
Photo (right): Coordinator of the Geneva Declaration Secretariat Luigi De Martino (photo by Vjeko Ziljak)
According to the Conflict Specialist at the UNDP Bratislava Regional Center, Zack Taylor, in working to reduce armed violence, it is important to comprehend the dynamics and driving factors behind armed violence, including by listening to the voices of the insecure and stopping to think why crime plagues one area but not another. Equipped with this information, state institutions and civil society groups are better able to support work that will have a meaningful reduction in the violence. Commonalities and differences in approaches may not always follow what we would expect. For example, what works in Zagreb may not necessarily be successful in Zurich, while what worked in Abuja may well work in Athens. This is why sharing and comparing different approaches and practices is so useful.
Cooperation between government and civil society is vital, Taylor added, as violence is "both global and local." That means that solutions need to be both "top down" and "bottom up." Timing was also important. Croatia had had a successful experience in collecting weapons from the civilian population, in part because at the time the police launched a campaign for voluntary surrender of small arms and explosives, the population had gained sufficient confidence in the police force that they were ready to give them up. But similar campaigns elsewhere, where institutions had won less public confidence, had failed spectacularly.
The First Secretary of the Spanish Embassy in Croatia, Jose Pedro Torrubia, provided a sample of the sort of "promising practice" that the seminar was organized to generate: Spain's experience in fighting domestic violence. After a disturbing number of women were killed by partners, husbands, or boyfriends, Spanish civil society helped to transform the perception of domestic violence from a personal issue into a social problem. The government adopted a zero-tolerance approach to perpetrators, and energetic media and advocacy efforts helped change public attitudes. The campaign included new laws and strategic action plans, financial support for victims, and online information accessible to all. Fifteen years on, Spain is now exporting this experience through its own development programming.
Photo (left): participants at the seminar
Discussions and exchange of good practices from Southeast Europe continued over two days, focusing on national approaches to crime prevention and community policing; gender dimensions of violence; and small arms control in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania.
Documents for download:
- Address by UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia Louisa Vinton
- Address by Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Mario Nobilo
- Address by Swiss Ambassador Denis Knobel