No development without security

Project completed
Jürg Benz, Chief Cooperation Office Central America, in an interview with reformist police and government officials in Comayagua/Honduras
Jürg Benz, Chief Cooperation Office Central America, in an interview with reformist police and government officials in Comayagua/Honduras. © Thomas Jenatsch/SDC Thomas Jenatsch/DEZA

Crime and insecurity are a big challenge for development cooperation work in Central America. The situation is particularly alarming in Honduras, where the homicide rate has doubled over the past five years to 86 murders per 100,000 inhabitants – the highest homicide rate in the world. This high level of violence not only costs lives, it also undermines development. Unlike in the rest of Latin America, in Honduras efforts to reduce poverty are stalling and economic growth is low.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Human rights
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Legal and judicial development
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)
01.07.2012 - 30.04.2016
CHF  7’045’000

How is the SDC, which has been active in Honduras without interruption since 1979, responding to the growing insecurity? As part of its Strategy for Central America 2013-2017, the SDC is stepping up its commitment to security and human rights to improve the general conditions for the country's social and economic development. Specifically, the SDC is involved in a comprehensive reform of the police force. It is also more sensitive to conflict: all its programmes are now paying more attention to combating the causes of violence.

Prevention instead of repression

The multi-year project to reform the corrupt Honduran security apparatus was launched at the end of 2012 with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank. Central pillars of this reform include realigning the security apparatus's mandate to focus on prevention instead of the previous reliance on simple repression, developing an internal monitoring and sanctions system and establishing an independent citizens' complaints body.

Efforts are also under way to reduce widespread impunity for violent crimes by reinforcing the investigative capacities of the police and the Ministry of Public Security.

This wide-reaching reform project also aims to implement local security plans in five medium-sized cities*. The three main pillars of this prevention policy are:

  • improving the physical environment: the upgrading, improved lighting and video surveillance of public areas and places;
  • social prevention: better leisure and education services for women and young people;
  • trust building: appropriately equipped community policing offers.

The policy is being implemented in close cooperation with municipal authorities, civil society, the private sector and the local police. The "Municipio más seguro" (safer municipalities) project, whose conceptual framework was designed by the UN, has already been successfully implemented in other Latin American countries (Colombia, Brazil and Mexico).

Education and training for the youth

To ensure that the voice of civil society will be heard during the institutional reform, the SDC is lending its support to a civil society alliance that is working for peace and justice and against impunity. In Honduras, the SDC has also launched a vocational education and training programme focusing in particular on young people in high-crime neighbourhoods. The programme offers them educational qualifications they can market in the construction and tourism sectors. The focus on security of the SDC's Honduras programme is based on the Message on Switzerland’s International Cooperation in 2013–2016, which calls for Switzerland to step up its commitment in fragile contexts.

The high level of violence is attributable to a variety of factors, including youth gangs, impunity and the widespread availability of weapons. The central problem is largely the failure and impotence of the state security and judicial system, which has been infiltrated by organised crime and is considered to be highly corrupt. Ninety-eight per cent of crimes go unsolved and unpunished. The reform of the policy and judicial system is, therefore, an important pillar of the agenda to improve public security and reduce violent crime.

*Comayagua, Siguatepeque, Puerto Cortés, Copan Ruinas, Santa Rita de Copan