Prioritised Attention to Youth with Emphasis on those Directly

In document Security Provision and Governing Processes in Fragile Cities of the Global South: The case of Medellin 2002-2012 (Page 149-154)

An important characteristic of the Medellin Model that started to give shape to a particular form of public service delivery in marginalised communities since 2002, was its emphasis on implementing programmes targeting young people, especially those living in marginalised communities. Since the 1990s this population group had been stigmatised as the main generator of high levels of violence in the city, and in consequence many civil society and public initiatives undertaken in the city targeted this group. The growing interest in the situation of youth in the city had led to an important civil mobilisation and the articulation of networks of civil society actors working on youth issues. With the participation of young people they designed a strategic plan78 for the improvement of public policies concerning young

people in the city. Sergio Fajardo (2004-2007), the first mayor representing an independent and civic movement in the local government and his successor Alonso Salazar (2008-2011), sought to incorporate many of the projects´ initiatives from that plan into their development projects, which increased the public offer and programmes available to young people in the city.

Many of the initiatives focused on improving access to education, creating spaces for the cultural initiatives of young people, promoting youth participation in democratic processes, and promoting coexistence in the city. These two local administrations stated their commitment to facilitating the incorporation of young population to the city’s project, as a crucial requirement for sustained governability and security in the city. In that line they implemented projects providing subsidies and loans to young people from families with low incomes so that they could access university79 and

78The 'Strategic Plan for Youth Development 2003 – 2013'

79Such as the scholarship programme funded by the EPM Fund which started in 2007 and the 'Youth with Future' Programme (Jovenes con Futuro) which offered support to initiate or continue university studies to people from 16 to 29 years old from poor backgrounds (estratos 1,2 y 3)


supported the work of public entities working on youth issues such as the Observatory of Youth (Observatorio de Juventud). However, the most important of these interventions in the city were those aimed at sending a clear message to those young people who had been involved in criminal activities and those who had not, that legality was an option, in other words that ‘it paid to be good’.

At the heart of the local strategies aimed at improving security in the city were programmes for those young people who had been directly involved in the urban conflict such as members of local gangs and paramilitary groups, youth in penitentiary centres and what the local government classified as youth at high risk of being recruited by criminal organizations. Taking advantage of the reduction in the levels of violence that the military interventions and the demobilisation of paramilitary forces had produced in the city until 2008, the local governments decided to include in the security strategy for the city a more preventive approach to urban crime and violence targeting these population groups. They saw in the demobilization and reintegration of members of paramilitary fronts, an opportunity to end the presence and dominance or armed groups in urban communities and to prevent the involvement of young people in criminality. In that line, they decided to invest in an ambitious programme called ‘Peace and Reconciliation: Return to Legality’ (Paz y Reconciliacion: Regreso a la Legalidad).

The programme started during the Fajardo administration in 2004 and it was continued by his successor. It aimed at supporting the reintegration of demobilising members of armed groups but also at fostering processes of reconciliation with victims and creating conditions for the construction of a more inclusive and democratic society by preventing the involvement of civilians in the conflict (Alcaldia de Medellin 2011:37). Within the framework of the negotiation between the Uribe government and the AUC, and with the support of the private sector and international organizations like the Organization of American States (OAS) and the International Organisation


for Migrations (OIM), which played an oversight and monitoring role80, this

local programme aimed at supporting the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process led by the national government.

The programme was designed to provide the beneficiaries with psychosocial support, income, education and training tailored to their needs and juridical advice. This integral approach to the reintegration of combatants gave this programme national and international recognition as an innovative model of intervention to deal with situations of complex violence81. By 2010 the

number of beneficiaries had reached 5564 former combatants (Alcaldia de Medellin 2011: 45), the equivalent of around 13% of the total number of demobilising combatants in the country. However, after 6 years of implementation, only 129 of them had completed the programme which made them socially and economically reintegrated, according to the programme standards. At the same time, 294 participants had either been expelled or were in process of being withdrawn from the programme.

The use of this type of programme, which gave exceptional benefits to young people from poor neighbourhoods who had been involved in criminal activities, as an instrument to discourage illegality and reduce violence, was given a new push when violence increased again in 2008. In combination with restrictive and coercive measures implemented by the police, such as a legal curfew for underage people, restrictions to carry arms and to transport passengers in motorcycles, establishing road blocks and stop and frisk practices targeting young people in the poorest neighbourhoods, the local government responded to the last crisis by expanding a programme called Young Force (Fuerza Joven). The local government decided to design a

80Other international actors supporting this initiative were European Union, the Embassy of the Netherlands, Presencia Colombo-Suiza and Technological Institute of Monterrey (Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey).

81The Colombian government suggested the design of a model transferable to other regions in the country based on the experience in Medellin. Also the programme was highlighted as a distinguished practice in the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment (DIABP).


security plan to (i) strengthen the security institutions' reactive capacity, (ii) increase the number and access to social, educational and training programs available to the youth and (iii) encourage an active citizen mobilization against violence. As it was done in the past, the municipality also supported small-scale pacts and agreements between gangs to stop the killings. In order to carry out the second component, the Fuerza Joven initiative followed the same approach of the reintegration programme and required the investment of important institutional and public resources.

Fuerza Joven included 3 different programs for young people between the ages of 14 and 29. One program called Crime Doesn`t Pay Off (Delinquir no Paga) directed to 15000 young students from high schools, one programme called Youth at high risk, which involved 3000 young people who were considered at risk of being recruited by criminal organizations, and another called Social Intervention in Jails, for more than 2000 young people who had already come in contact with the judicial system and were either in prison or in the process of demobilization (Ibid 75). In total, Fuerza Joven directly involved 20000 young people, whom the administration classified as at risk of exercising violence or becoming involved in criminal activities.

The programme was expected to help reduce crime levels in the city by offering young people alternatives to criminal activities and incentives not to ally with armed groups. It was awarded the second place in an international contest of Good Practices in Crime Prevention organised by the Interamerican Development Bank, also recognised as a promising intervention and included in the bank of good practices for the prevention of crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. From the three programmes, the one that gained most attention in the urban communities was the one for young people at risk. The official campaign presented the programme as an opportunity for young people living in the poorest communities, where the presence of criminal groups was stronger, to access a generous subsidy (half as a voucher and the other half in cash) and admission to education, training, cultural, sportive and social activities. However, the key requirement


to be accepted as beneficiary of this generous program was to be a member of a youth gang or a group connected to an armed group.

The emphasis on targeting the young portion of the population, especially the one in marginalised communities, with state initiatives and programmes, remained as a constant over the last decade. However, as in other countries, the national and local State resorted to the combination of preventive approaches and repressive measures in order to tackle insecurity and violence. Despite the emphasis on socio-economic prevention and programmes recognising young people in these contexts as active agents of positive change in their communities, when urban violence increased in marginalised communities as a result of violent competitions between local gangs that the demobilization was not able to dismantle, the state increased the dose of coercion and restrictive security measures targeting the underprivileged youth. These measures were still highly institutionalized, massively supported by the public and continuously reinforced by the international discourse of the war on drugs and on organized crime. Although the curfew imposed on young people from affected neighbourhoods82 as a

way to reduce violence was not sustained, the approval of the new Citizen Security Law aimed at combating crime, suggested by the national government of President Santos to the Congress, reinforced the long established assumption that the main problem of security in Colombian cities was the lack of control and a weak system of punishments for young people who committed crimes.

For some external observers of the situation in marginalised communities (such as residents of other areas of the city as well as some politicians and public servants), the fact that the local state had invested in improving the

82 The measure was implemented with the intention of forcing young people living in the neighbourhoods where violence was high to stay indoors between 6pm and 5am. The measure had been used before in times of crises and had the support of some sectors of the population. It was strongly criticized by civil society, community

organizations and groups of young people. According to these groups it stigmatised young people from these communities as the cause of the outbreak of violence, it also ignored structural factors causing insecurity and the immediate causes of this outbreak of violence.


provision of services in these communities and increased the number of programmes offering opportunities to young people from these areas, and that violence could so easily erupt there despite such institutional effort, demonstrated that the problem was not related to the socio-economic conditions of young people in and of these communities, but to the weakness of the security system to deal with a problematic sector of society that needed to be controlled83.

Finally, it is worth highlighting here that the implementation of programmes for young people, especially those that were executed with the intention of reducing violence and insecurity in the city, required not only an important amount of public resources but also high levels of inter-institutional coordination. Different state agencies at local level needed to establish mechanisms to work together in order to implement such programmes, just as national and local tiers of government had to coordinate their actions. An important aspect of the mixed approach to security provision that was configured in Medellin in the last decade is its emphasis on institutional development, especially at local level. The implementation of integrated approaches to deal with identified vulnerable groups, such as young people at risk, demobilised ex-combatants, displaced populations, women, minority groups, etc., as well as the process of establishing state presence for the first time in areas of the city previously neglected, led to the creation of new entities and mechanisms at local level in the last decade, that suggest an increasing bureaucratization and sophistication of the local state. The implementation of a combined approach to urban security, as the case of Medellin illustrates, implies not only the redirection of public resources, but also increasingly complex and more sophisticated institutional processes.

Cluster 4: Urban Upgrading: Social Urbanism and Social Investment in

In document Security Provision and Governing Processes in Fragile Cities of the Global South: The case of Medellin 2002-2012 (Page 149-154)