Violence and Community Capabilities: Insights for Building Safe and Inclusive Cities in Central America
20 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2015 Last revised: 7 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 2015
This paper offers insights into dynamics of urban violence in two Central American countries that have evolved very differently historically. Costa Rica boasts the lowest overall levels of poverty and inequality of any country on the Isthmus, and has benefited from decades of stable and relatively inclusive governance highlighted by ambitious social policies. El Salvador, by contrast, exhibits severe levels of poverty and inequality typical of its neighbors, as well as a long history of exclusionary rule and corresponding inattention to social welfare. Yet our research reveals significant parallels between the two countries. This three-year, multi-method comparative study, carried out by teams at FLACSO-Costa Rica and FLACSO-El Salvador in collaboration with American University and with support from the IDRC/DFID Safe and Inclusive Cities program, focused on violence in two impoverished urban communities in Costa Rica and three in El Salvador. In all five settings, we analyzed neighborhood dynamics as well as community assessments of anti-violence interventions.
We identified numerous lessons, some of which are counterintuitive, as well as concrete measures for consideration by regional, national, and local policymakers and community actors.
Keywords: Central America, Costa Rica, El Salvador, urban violence, cities, anti-violence interventions, social exclusion, communities, community capabilities, poverty, gang violence, domestic violence
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