Each year, World Red Cross Red Crescent Day is celebrated across the globe on 8 May. The event offers an occasion for the members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to pay tribute to the tremendous, life-saving work that is carried out by its dedicated staff and volunteers around the world every day.
The theme of this year’s celebrations is “together for humanity”. As part of a four-part series to mark 8 May, we look at how regional alliances have enabled the International Federation to confront the rapidly growing problem of youth gang violence across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Quality of life and human development in Central America suffered a devastating setback in 1998, when Hurricane Mitch left a trail of destruction across the region.
Staff and volunteers from National Red Cross Societies, the ICRC and the International Federation intervened both in the immediate emergency period and through long-term development programmes. It was to become one of the most significant operations for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement of the last 10 years.
By 2002, the Honduran Red Cross had identified a new and rapidly growing problem of youth gang violence in the “temporary macro-shelters” it was managing in Tegucigalpa, with the support of the Spanish Red Cross. In response, it launched a pilot project known under the concept of “extending opportunities” in two communities. The project was supported by the Dutch, Spanish and Italian Red Cross Societies.
Similar problems with juvenile violence were identified by the National Societies of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. There, too, projects were put in place to promote community development in highly vulnerable communities. These ranged from rebuilding infrastructures and water and sanitation, to HIV-AIDS prevention, economic development and risk reduction.
As the number of similar projects increased, and with growing interest on the part of other countries, the Spanish Red Cross established a consultative network in the region. The aim was to identify the causes of violence in the region, particularly among young people and gender violence. Ten National Societies from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico, took part, alongside the regional delegations of the ICRC and the International Federation.
The result was a framework on the emerging “culture of violence” set against the background of the lack of opportunities and marked inequalities that characterize Latin America and the Caribbean.
Inspired by the Principles and Values of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the framework concludes with a proposal based on education and the promotion of citizenship in relation to the exercise of human rights.
The regional strategy for violence prevention for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean was published in 2005 and disseminated internationally. More recently, the plan of action has been updated to cover the next few years and laying down a framework for implementation.
This aims to address the sense of alienation, loss of creativity and lack of aspirations among young people whose human rights have been violated since childhood and who are therefore most vulnerable to the culture of violence.
It will be presented for approval at the Inter-American Conference in Guayaquil in June 2007.