In the face of increasing threats associated with organized criminal activity and the narcotics trade, Latin American countries are taking increasingly assertive steps to address urban violence. Going beyond a simple understanding of violence as a structural issue, and recognizing the failures of the ‘war on drugs’, new approaches frame urban violence as states of exception that require military and humanitarian responses.

On one hand, militarized approaches to urban security entail the deployment of military trained personnel – or military support by an external actor – to manage domestic security concerns. The Brazilian experience leading UN stabilization mission MINUSTAH in Haiti, for example, has strongly influenced the Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP) law enforcement approach in Rio’s favelas. On the other hand, the human and political costs of these approaches across the region – and their questionable success in creating durable solutions to urban violence – has seen national and international actors re-framing urban violence as a humanitarian crisis requiring responses from humanitarian actors.

Understanding the ways this shift in discourse and policy will affect both state responses to violence and humanitarian engagement in urban areas is fundamentally important and needs further unpacking. A simplistic view might consider militarization as a negative and humanitarianism as a positive, though both approaches may be effective or detrimental for issues of state capacity, democratic legitimacy, and citizen rights. Fundamentally, the effectiveness and legitimacy of these emerging agendas will depend on how, where, and why they are implemented, and are dynamics which need to be more fully understood.

Objective of workshop

The workshop examines these emerging approaches to engaging with violence in Latin American cities. In particular, we consider: (i) under what conditions new militarized and humanitarian approaches can create actionable, forward-thinking policy to reduce urban violence; and (ii) how we might mitigate the negative consequences of these emerging forms of engagement. In discussing these themes, PRIO has convened invited international expert scholars and practitioners, as well as Norwegian based researchers, policymakers and humanitarian actors. Speakers include:

The workshop will be of relevance for those in humanitarian organizations working with contexts of urban violence, researchers concerned with themes of armed violence and peacekeeping in urban areas in Latin America, relevant policy makers, and interested members of the public and media.

The program for the event available here .