The Second Annual Latin-American Colloquium on Security Policies and Human Rights: Focusing on Early Childhood, Childhood and Adolescence, first organized in 2011, was held this year by Equity for Children Latin America on the 21st and 22nd of March. This year, the symposium was organized with the following partners: International Center for Studies and Research on Infancy (CIESPI / PUC-Rio), the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), the National Early Childhood Network (RNPI), the Arcor Institute and Arcor Foundation. The Second Latin American Colloquium also received generous support from the C&A Institute, Instituto C & A, Avante – Education and Social Mobilization (Educação e Mobilização Social Avante), The Bernard van Leer Foundation and the News Agency for Children’s Rights (ANDI).
Nearly 150 people, including representatives of governments and social organizations, students, child experts and human rights, discussed the impact of security policies and violence on the rights of children and adolescents in Brazil and Latin America.
On the 21st and 22nd of March, the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) hosted the meeting with a central focus on the concepts of security and human rights that underpin public policy and social struggles in the region.
The discussion highlighted the difficulty of giving visibility to the impact of security policies and crime on the lives of children and adolescents in the region. It is well known, for instance, that the complex phenomenon of drug trafficking is affecting children increasingly early in their youth, but it is imperative to obtain concrete numbers and facts about the disappearance and abduction of children and adolescents for trafficking networks. In like manner, while studies have been elucidated the impact of the prison system on Black youth, we must still deepen our understanding of the effects on early childhood of those who are born and raised in prisons.
Among the many reflections discussed rose the need to transform existing security policies based on racial constructs and notions of national security. Also considered was the need to stress the urgency of overcoming the notion of crime as a police issue alone, and the need to direct action toward security policies that guarantee the right to the city, incorporating demands and needs that haven’t been legitimated, and to enable the voice and participation of silenced stakeholders.
Lastly, the conference highlighted the existing challenges to generate advocacy measures directed at the media and the public in general in order to bring an end to the discrimination against marginal sectors of the population. In this same context panelists discussed ways to deconstruct key forms of visibility of poor, Black, and indigenous children and adolescents as criminals. Carefully addressed was the question of how to develop a more complex view of the intricate problem of organized crime and violence in the private sphere which so often remains invisible to police action.
Axes of Debate
Among the discussion topics, panelists and attendants addressed the violation of rights and the absence of social guarantees that result from the militarization and policing of communities. Expressed in different countries in the region, this phenomenon arises as a consequence of security policies grounded on notions of national security rather than public safety. Also to blame are the dissimilar interventions for distinct social classes and territories, all of which creates a perception of insecurity and falls short of charting a real map of criminality in the region.
Another focus of discussion at the conference was the issue of discrimination, racism and the multiple forms violence against peasant families and poor, Black, and indigenous children. In the same context, testimonies emerged about how racism structures the social, economic and human relations in the region, and how discrimination starts early in school.
Also discussed were matters of how state action privileged investments in urban infrastructure for tourism, deepening the vulnerability and criminalization of vulnerable social sectors, in the context of mega-events such as the World Cup and the Olympics.
Also discussed was the complicated situation of children and adolescents living on the streets of Brazil and the human rights violations which result from compulsory confinement. Highlighted was the need for more creative ways of caring for families directly, incorporating the gender dimension to avoid shaping processes which fault and negatively impact women.
Lastly, the discussion revealed the problems implicit in demands to lower the age of criminal responsibility, which are grounded on a concept of justice that is based on revenge. It also highlighted concerns about cases of family violence that fall outside the map of security policies.