21 July 2020
In this post, Chilean National Defender, Andrés Mahnke, talks about the progress made in Chile's criminal defence with the EUROsociAL+ project
The so-called “social outcry” started in Chile on 18 October 2019 and transformed the country’s agenda, not only because its citizens demanded it, and because it exposed the activities of public institutions which now, more than ever, were struggling to cope with hitherto unseen scenarios stemming from the demonstrations.
The Chilean social outcry attracted international interest, since it included loss of life and hundreds of people with ocular mutilation, numerous complaints of serious human rights violations, and destruction of public and private infrastructures, among other consequences. As a result, the country received visits from representatives of several international human rights organisations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In all these areas, Chilean justice and its actors had to take action, monitored by the justice system and the close scrutiny of an empowered citizenry and the international community. In this context, a series of adjustments and learnings took place, which started to become visible during the first quarter of 2020, and which had their acid test during March of this year.
However, this story had an unexpected twist, which dominated all scenarios and modified all agendas: the SARS-CoV2 Coronavirus, which causes the disease known as Covid19 . A few weeks after the disease reared its head in Chile, it forced a change to the electoral calendar for the beginning of the constitutional process and caused something which was unthinkable just weeks earlier: the end of mass social protest in public spaces. People went home and the streets were empty, in the same way as happened almost all over the world.
But reflection on the changes to the justice system and the lessons learned from the ‘outbreak’ must not stop. In fact, they have become even more essential to resume the fluidity of public activity when the health emergency ends. Nor does the outcry seem to have disappeared, rather it has been put on hold with a few resurgences due to the lack of food during the quarantine. Everything suggests the social and economic impact of the pandemic will exacerbate existing inequalities. Therefore, this period has been an opportunity to integrate our learning and anticipate future scenarios.
In the social protest scenario, one indirect effect was connected to the work of the different actors in the criminal system facing an unprecedented challenge in terms of coverage and operational capacity, because of the notable increase in the number of people detained and processed.
Between 18 October and 13 November 2019, the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office – a public institution that guarantees the right to defence and which is made up of 722 officials and 524 external providers – attended to 20,645 people under arrest, an increase of 25.4% compared to the same period of the previous year.
These increases, however, were even greater during the initial days of the crisis. Between 20 and 28 October, a period during which much of Chile was under a “state of constitutional exception”, the institution registered 10,712 defendants undergoing detention reviews, representing an increase of 70% compared to the same period in 2018. Furthermore, whereas on average there are between 600 and 650 daily detention reviews in the country, at that time they increased to 1,100 daily hearings, reaching a peak of 2,508 detention reviews on 21 October.
Beyond this work, an initial conclusion showed that an indeterminate number of detainees were not assisted by public defenders, either because the Public Ministry had decided not to transfer them to detention review, or because the police did not report that they had been arrested. This meant that there was no jurisdictional control of these activities and there were no records.
This triggered a contingency plan in Public Defence to attend to people detained in the police units, because by institutional design, defenders are in contact with the detainee just before the detention review hearing before the supervisory judge. Although public defenders set up informal service centres in police stations and other police detention facilities, this gave direct coverage to only 105 of the 900 police stations in the country.
This gap need to be filled urgently, since numerous people’s rights have been violated, as described in reports from the human rights organisations who visited the country.
Institutionally, the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office activated different measures, such as strengthening the dissemination of rights , coordinating with the rest of the actors in the system, and opening channels for collaboration with the police, among others.
However, the main initiative that followed the period of social crisis in Chile stemmed from the support lent by EUROsociAL+, European Union programme managed by the FIIAPP, whose specialists are currently collaborating with Public Defenders to prepare a ‘Criminal defence protocol for the initial hours following arrest‘.
Its main objective is to find a means to provide coverage that guarantees the right of detained persons to a defence lawyer in the shortest possible time, thus protecting their right to technical defence. Furthermore, as international organisations that promote and protect human rights have revealed, the presence of a defence lawyer is a safeguard to protect the detained person’s other rights, particularly to prevent torture.
These actions enable comprehensive, effective achievement of the institutional mission to guarantee the right to defence of any accused person at all stages of the criminal process, preventing violation of rights and strengthening judicial detention review, providing public defenders with more tools to appeal against the punitive power of the State on an equal footing before the courts of justice.
The objective is always the same: to reinforce institutional commitment to the rule of law, a peaceful society and democracy in Chile, a task for which we are grateful to have the steadfast, permanent support of European cooperation.
By Andrés Mahnke M., National Defender (Chilean Public Criminal Defender)
In relation to the work done together with the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office, the EUROsociAL+ programme has just published a diagnosis of the criminal defence of people in the first few hours of detention in the Latin American country.
16 July 2020
Marta Monterrubio, a specialist from the Triangular Cooperation project for Public Policy Evaluation in Latin America and the Caribbean, tells us about this discipline in the context of COVID-19
As part of the EVALÚA project led by the FIIAPP and financed by the European Union, a methodological guide to the experimental and behavioural economics methodologies applied to public policy evaluation has been prepared. The author of the guide, Diego Aycinena Abascal, a professor at the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá and a visiting researcher at the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University in Orange, has compiled some of the most significant findings of behavioural experiments since the discipline was created 50 years ago, with the aim of making these easy for decision-makers to access and use.
What is the impact of biases and non-standard preferences during the COVID-19 crisis?
Classical political economy holds that human beings are what is known as “homus economicus”, which basically means that we make decisions by weighing up the cost and the benefit of our actions, so that the latter outweighs the former. However, since the mid 20th century, experiments have shown that the courses of action that we choose tend to deviate from this model.
Non-standard preferences, non-standard beliefs and non-standard decision-making
These concepts show that human beings do not always behave in a rational manner, because we are influenced by biases, intuitions and false beliefs. One very common behaviour is loss aversion (bias) which implies we would rather not lose now than gain more later. Myopic loss aversion is a combination of the above with risk, and can prompt us to act in ways that lead to a negative medium-term result. Our perception of loss is completely different to our perception of profit when a risk is involved, as shown by the theory of the prospects. When faced with a risk, we would rather not lose now rather than make a profit later. Otherwise put, when faced with a potential loss, we take risks, but when presented with a possible gain, we look for security.
Present bias and self-control problems involve inconsistent behaviours and show that our willpower has limits. We might make a decision and then put it off more or less indefinitely. This frequently manifests in spending money to make up for a lack of motivation or action, for example, by buying “miracle products” instead of starting the diet we had planned.
Observation of social norms suggests that when choosing a course of action, we consider more than the potential losses and gains. We also consider whether the action is in line with what our peers (our social circle) tend to do and consider appropriate in such a situation. Because of this, our decisions are influenced greatly by the societies in which we live, which can weigh more than result of the cost/benefit equation.
Hindsight bias is the tendency for people with knowledge of an outcome to falsely believe that they would have predicted the outcome of an event, exaggerating the similarity between their ex-post beliefs and their beliefs prior to an informational event.
Prominence preference, although an irrational strategy, steers people to choose the most striking option or one that stands out for spurious reasons, such as aesthetics or a prominent physical position (supermarket shelf, for example).
Ultimately, many of these phenomena (self-control issues, social preferences, social norms, over-projection of preferences) can be chalked up to emotions and feelings. Psychological literature reveals the role of emotions as a mechanism that mediates our behaviour. However, these psychological findings have recently begun to be incorporated into public policy.
Biases, false beliefs and non-standard preferences during the COVID-19 crisis
They influence our decisions and daily lives more than we think. For example, since the pandemic appeared we have seen loss aversion bias influence many governments’ decision-making, particularly in the beginning, when they were still ignorant of the magnitude of what lay ahead. Many put off imposing draconian isolation measures for fear of economic hardship, failing to grasp that the initial losses would avoid having to pay a high price later on. This is closely related to the prospect theory, which includes the previous bias in a risk situation. Other biases like optimism and the illusion of control have also been common, causing many people to resort to futile remedies, pseudo-science and superstition, and the spread of an enormous number of hoaxes and lies about the pandemic.
The hindsight bias stated above is frequent, among the multitude of opinions around us, to the extent that one might be forgiven for thinking that almost everyone already knew what was going to happen and which would be the best decisions to make right from the start.
Social norms have clearly influenced our behaviour during confinement, with non-compliance or stricter compliance with the rules conditioned by what has been happening in the immediate environment (family, neighbourhood, municipality).
We have also seen some political or social leaders urging disobedience with regulations, questioning their effectiveness or legitimacy, albeit on a more psychological than economic level. Authority bias makes people predisposed to believing that if an authority gives us permission to break the law and even cross the moral line, we feel prone to do so, which has recently happened in certain cases.
The optimistic bias leads us to project our own wishes onto objective data. As already mentioned, which has been observed during the de-escalation. We tend to think that the risk is lessening, causing people to stop taking precautions which are clearly necessary if we analyse the data carefully.
These are just a few examples of how we behave irrationally and take irrational decisions, both large and small. Understanding this irrationality and the mental shortcuts we make can be helpful when we make personal decisions, but it is crucial for public policy decision makers.
What are nudges?
Nudges are behavioural statements frequently used to promote public policies. Nudges are designed to influence our decisions by modifying the decision-making architecture, without substantially modifying incentives or restricting options using premises of behavioural economics.
Nudges have become extremely popular because they are suitable for making low-cost statements based on soft or libertarian paternalism without resorting to prohibitions or restrictions. There are several successful documented cases of statements using nudges, for example, to encourage organ donation, quit smoking through commitments, reduce OR deaths with check-lists, improve loan repayment rates with personalised reminders, increase compliance with tax payments, among others.
However, nudges must be designed carefully, otherwise they may be ineffective, counter-productive or used for other purposes. Some of these biases may lead us to overestimate the likelihood that nudges will be a success. The statements that lead to success get the most attention and those that fail are often ignored or forgotten. In addition, it has been seen that the effects of some statements are short-lived and the lack of long-term improvement is ignored. Therefore, the likelihood of success of a behavioural statement or a nudge is only as good as the behavioural foundation on which it is based.
Behavioural experiments applied to public policies.
Behavioural experiments have been widely used in consumer affairs, political marketing, investment and finance, and other fields. Their application to public policy, in terms of design, management and evaluation, is far more recent. However, there is some experience that allows us to extract some important learnings:
- Experimental data is replicable insofar as it allows knowledge to be built based on previous findings. This facilitates a cumulative and systematic process of experimental learning. Consequently, a store of generalised knowledge is built that supports the design of public policiesand makes them relevant and viable.
- The findings of these experiments allow us to observe variables directly, something that would not be possible otherwise. For example, observing antisocial behaviours that people would try to conceal outside the laboratory (it would only be possible to observe complaints), such as taking money earned by third parties, or filing false income statements to avoid taxes and obligations.
- Field experiments can be used in an enormous number of subject areas, for example, they have been successful for evaluating actions aimed at increasing electoral participation, measuring corruption in educational qualifications, measuring reductions in water or energy consumption and to increase recycling and determine responses to improve tax compliance.
- There are different types of experiments. By their nature, laboratory, artefactual, and framing experiments are cheaper and have a comparative advantage in helping us understand mechanisms and giving us valuable information before implementing a policy or programme through scale testing. Experiments in the natural field have a comparative advantage for evaluating the impact of previously implemented policies and programmes, and for accurately measuring their effects on the specific population of interest in its natural context. Their approaches can be complementary, as has been seen in combinations of artefactual field experiments with natural field experiments.
The Methodological Guide is a tool available to institutions to help select the most suitable type of experiment and for dissecting the roadmap for implementation, defining the steps for development and describing the advantages and limitations.
11 June 2020
Iñaki Rivera y Alejandro Forero, del Observatorio del Sistema Penal y Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Barcelona, cuentan su experiencia trabajando junto al proyecto europeo EUROSociAL+ en coordinación con la AIDEF
This project seeks to promote access to justice and healthcare for people in prisons who today live in overcrowded conditions, suffering from inhuman and degrading treatment and even torture. The experts tell us how the pandemic has further exacerbated prisoners’ poor living conditions, generating a prison emergency in which the right to life cannot be guaranteed, and they leave us with a series of international recommendations to deal with the problem.
About a year ago, in February 2019, we published an article in which we reported on the work done by the European Union EUROsociAL+ Programme in coordination with the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders (AIDEF) in designing of a Regional Model of care for victims of institutional violence in prisons. At that time, we were already announcing a project to create a System of Registration, Communication and Comprehensive Care for Victims of Institutional Prison Violence (SIRCAIVI) in several Latin American countries. We hoped that if it was implemented as a new public policy, it might be very useful in promoting true access to justice and health (physical and mental) for those who may suffer inhuman or degrading treatment and even torture in jails.
This project was recently launched by EUROsociAL+ in Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica, in coordination with the Public Defenders of these countries. Those of us who have been working on these issues for years at the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights at the University of Barcelona know the importance of permanent monitoring of prisons to promote a revaluation of the fundamental rights of people in custody. The project was already important in fulfilling that purpose then, but the current health emergency caused by Covid-19 in prisons has turned it into a priority.
If a year ago we were already aware of the serious situation of overcrowding in prisons in Latin America, where the average ratio of prisoners to every 100,000 inhabitants was 387 while the world average was 144, one year later, we have seen some systems that have broken almost all growth records worldwide. Since 2000, while the prison population in the world has grown by 24% on average, in Latin America it has grown by 121% – 67% in Central America and a spectacular 175% in South America.
But the problem is not only quantitative, but also qualitative, where this extreme lack of space is compounded by serious deficiencies in health, food and safety, generating unhealthy environments where it is easy for diseases to spread and where conflicts between prisoners themselves and between prisoners and prison staff also make prisons places where institutional violence is the norm. It is not surprising that we have witnessed the sad news of riots and fires in prisons resulting in the deaths of tens or hundreds of people. Not surprisingly, in several countries the prison situation has been publicly declared a “prison emergency” or an “unconstitutional state of affairs”. Therefore, if the region’s prisons have become a time bomb since the beginning of the 21st century, where their collapse does not even guarantee their inhabitants the right to life or physical and mental integrity, the appearance of COVID-19 only serves to accelerate the countdown.
The combination of this new health emergency with the structural existence of extremely high levels of prison overcrowding in Latin America sounds an alarm that must be addressed immediately. Numerous international pronouncements have been published in recent weeks in that direction. From the United Nations, its High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called out forcefully for a demographic reduction in prisons. The same has been said by the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. At the European level, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has drawn attention to the responsibility for ensuring the right to health in prisons. Regarding Latin America, both the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have published statements, recommendations and warnings about it. All these pronouncements (from organisations such as Amnesty International, Prison Reform International and Human Rights Watch) coincide on: the need to promote alternative or extra-penitential measures; the need to broaden the concept of the right to communications between these people and their families; the consideration that a prison term in the current circumstances and in countries with prison overcrowding may lead to the submission of prisoners to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which must be combated, and; the need to strengthen prisoners’ right to health.
International Human Rights Law emphasises the “special position of guarantor” in which States find themselves with respect to the rights of people in prison. This means that it is their obligation to guarantee the health of prisoners, as well as to fulfil the measures required by free society, such as those of social distancing. But in overcrowded prisons, this is simply a pipe-dream. There is no alternative: public action plans aimed at drastically reducing the imprisoned population must be implemented.
The Magistrate of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the prestigious criminal justice expert Raúl Zaffaroni, states emphatically that we cannot deceive ourselves: “Thousands of human lives are at stake here and no one will be able to claim ignorance of this in the future, since we are all fully aware of the illegality of those sentences in such conditions of serving time, and if we do not do the right thing now, it is because the possibility is being wilfully accepted of the death of thousands of people, more than half of whom, in our countries, are not even convicted. We are facing a catastrophe and the states that allow the death of thousands of people in their overcrowded prisons would be internationally responsible, without prejudice to their authorities being responsible for large-scale crimes involving the abandonment of people. Let us not forget that letting thousands of people die, with a clear awareness that this would inevitably be the result of their inaction, omitting the urgent measures demanded by all the responsible bodies in the world, would be a typically wilful behaviour of mass abandonment of people, clearly characterised as a crime against humanity”.
Faced with such a panorama, we believe that the implementation of SIRCAIVI should include actions aimed at reducing the impact of the pandemic in prisons in Latin America. Especially insofar as it can directly influence the concept of institutional prison violence. It is in this sense that the Public Defenders of Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica (where the SIRCAIVI will be located) can see that their role of protecting the rights of people in prison will be strengthened as they take on the tasks of registering incidents caused by the pandemic, monitoring their evolution, and offering information to these people and their families.
Specifically, compliance with international recommendations can and should be monitored. These measures are also being demanded in European Union countries, with different degrees of acceptance.
The pandemic is global. Avenues used to deal with pandemics must also follow a common roadmap, which is the one that emerges from the international recommendations. Their timely fulfilment, before it is too late, is not only a legal duty but an ethical imperative in which, as part of contemporary civilisation, we all have a great stake.
Alejandro Forero Cuéllar and Iñaki Rivera Beiras, from the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights at the University of Barcelona, and experts from the EUROsociAL+ Programme.
26 March 2020
Posteado en : Reportage
We commemorate World Meteorological Day, which is held on 23 March and which highlights the relationship between meteorology and climate change and the work of EUROCLIMA+ in this regard
Torrential rain and droughts are water-related meteorological phenomena, all increasingly extreme anywhere on the planet. This year, World Meteorological Day, under the heading of “climate and water”, is dedicated to these and other similar phenomena and focuses on the climate change effects which manifest themselves through water.
According to data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), humans cannot survive more than three days without water and there are currently 3 billion people worldwide who do not have basic facilities to wash their hands. Furthermore, knowing this, it must be taken into account that in the next 30 years the world demand for fresh water will increase between 20% and 30%.
With the aim of commemorating the creation of the WMO on 23 March 1950 within the UN, this day also serves to highlight the contribution made by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to the security and well-being of societies; and, why not, to reflect on the importance of meteorology in the global context of climate change in which we live today.
Water, a shared asset
Extreme meteorological phenomena, the result of the climate change we all experiencing worldwide, are one of the greatest global threats. Specifically, those related to water pose a major risk due to their impacts both on sustainable development and on people’s safety. According to the WMO Secretary General, Petteri Taalas, in the organisation’s statement about 23 March, “The changes in the global distribution of rainfall are having important repercussions in many countries. Sea levels are rising at an ever-increasing rate due to the melting of larger glaciers, such as those in Greenland and Antarctica. This is exposing coastal areas and islands to an increased risk of flooding and the submergence of low-lying areas.”
Rising rivers or floods are a source of peace and conflict, as most rivers and other freshwater areas cross borders, and decisions made by one country regarding the management of water resources often have an impact on other countries. In addition, food security is closely related to water: for example, the concentration of rainfall at certain times of the year or in certain places affects agriculture, movements and, ultimately, the survival of millions of people all around the world.
Ample evidence of the chosen heading’s international significance is to be found in the fact that water and climate are the cornerstones of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation) and 13 (Climate action), both included in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which contain the global priorities for the next 10 years.
Every drop counts for the EUROCLIMA+ project
As expressly detailed by the WMO, data on water resources are currently incomplete and scattered, which greatly hinders joint work between countries and international cooperation to face global challenges, such as climate change.
The EUROCLIMA+ project is working along these lines, hand in hand with AEMET in Central America, where, together with the different countries’ institutions, they are generating climate scenarios to anticipate the impacts of climate change and plan adaptation measures. In this sense, the project, financed by the EU and with the FIIAPP participating in the management, has its sights set on reviewing the impact, vulnerability and needs of adapting to climate change.
The usefulness of the scenarios, in the words of the project specialist and AEMET meteorologist Jorge Tamayo, depends on having information so as to know “what is going to happen and what measures can be applied”, and also that such information can “be used by those responsible for water management, for planning”, for example “if they have to make a greater number of reservoirs or have to resize those that they currently have, to try to mitigate these effects at least by knowing them.”
Working together to adapt or mitigate climate change is the same as working together for a more resilient future, as EUROCLIMA+ demonstrates.
19 September 2019
These projects, financed by the European Union and in whose management the FIIAPP participates, hold a high-level bi-regional conference today in Montevideo on alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty
With the presence of numerous European and Latin American authorities, COPOLAD, EL PAcCTO and EUROsociAL+ combine efforts, work, discourse and media in this conference with the aim of achieving a greater impact of the issue on society.
The conference was closed with a broad agreement formalised in a joint declaration ratified by all the representatives of the participating Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as by the European Union and by the three regional cooperation programmes organising the event: COPOLAD II, THE COURT and EUROsociAL+.
Each from its perspective, in this post the three projects highlight the common dimension that they share around alternative measures to imprisonment.
COPOLAD and the importance of coordination between institutions
In recent years, several alternative measures to prison have shown encouraging results by reducing, in some prisons, the overpopulation and with it, the problems associated with this situation. The lecture will explain the main lines of action in this area, which have shown positive results, consistently and in different social contexts, in relation to overcrowding and in addressing other associated problems. In this context, and in order to explore the successful alternatives implemented in some countries and the evaluation of their benefits, an aspect that is common, basic and essential for ensuring success in the application of any alternative measure will be considered.
This key factor is the need for inter-institutional coordination, a concept that is easy to formulate but more complex to apply. Inter-institutional coordination has proven to be at the centre of any action that promotes the development of public policies in the field of alternatives to prison if they are to be effective (evidence-based), efficient and aligned with development goals, especially the protection of human rights, the empowerment of women, the promotion of public health and good governance.
With this in mind, the conference will provide an opportunity to look more in-depth at what inter-institutional coordination means in this area, the implications of facing the many challenges of developing and managing opportunities and the coordination mechanisms (multisectoral platforms and tools) that must exist to improve horizontal cooperation between the judicial system and the security forces, as well as between social and healthcare services.
Teresa Salvador-Llivina is director of COPOLAD and Claudia Liebers is responsible for Institutional Relations and Project Strategy.
EL PAcCTO: the relationship between alternative measures to prison and organised crime
Worldwide, and Latin America is no exception, many states have a prison overpopulation that sometimes reaches alarming levels. Overcrowding is an evil in itself, since in addition to affecting the human dignity of persons deprived of liberty, it prevents or greatly complicates the correct implementation of social reintegration programmes, the physical separation between dangerous detainees and minor criminals or first-time offenders.
Numerous international studies underline that prison cannot be the only solution for dealing with crime and show that, frequently, it becomes a crime school, favouring the proliferation of criminal groups that act inside and outside the detention centres, putting the safety of convicts and society as a whole at risk. There are several criminal organisations that have emerged and have been strengthened in the prison environment, taking advantage of the weaknesses of the systems due to high overpopulation.
Therefore, one of the main concerns of EL PAcCTO is the need to support the execution and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, considering them as essential to easing congestion in prison systems and focusing attention on the most dangerous persons deprived of their liberty, who can recruit followers in prisons. For these reasons, we consider that the measures are also an essential tool for the fight against organised crime.
In addition, alternative measures are a transversal issue that need a holistic approach, strong coordination and lead to cultural change and a shared approach among all the actors involved also in terms of external communication.
Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini is the coordinator of the EL PAcCTO Prison systems component, Lorenzo Tordelli is the thematic co-coordinator-manager and Nathalie Boissou is the deputy coordinator.
EUROsociAL + , favouring social insertion and the abandoning of crime
In Montevideo, the EUROsociAL+ programmes, together with El PACcTO and COPOLAD, are currently organising a bi-regional conference on alternative measures to deprivation of liberty. All three, each from its own perspective, have addressed this issue, converging on common problems that make us work in the same direction.
Imprisonment as a penalty, which should be a last resort, has been used indiscriminately in Latin America. There has been an exponential growth in the prison population in recent decades. This overpopulation, which has caused problems of overcrowding, health, and violence, has been questioned to the extent that it has shown not to be able to favour social insertion processes, nor has it had a deterrent effect reducing re-offending, or positive effects on social rehabilitation
The social cohesion approach, which the EUROsociAL+ programme promotes, is closely linked to the development and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, not only because inequality contributes to violence, and this in a programme that aims to reduce all kinds of inequalities, but because in their eagerness to “leave no-one behind”, the question that should interest us above all is not why do criminals commit crimes? but why do they stop committing crimes? The search for actions that favour the decision to abandon crime is the key in the processes of social insertion of offenders and in alternative measures.
A special focus will be given to women deprived of their liberty in this conference. Despite the fact that the percentage is much lower than that of men, the number of women imprisoned in the region has almost tripled in recent decades. This growth is very fast and proportionally much higher than that of men. These trends should be a concern for governments and the prison system, still lacking or indifferent in dealing with the specific needs of women. It is urgent, therefore, to incorporate the gender perspective.
Of course, the application of alternative measures cannot be incorporated without the backing of reliable administrative action. Implementation requires a framework of action with rehabilitative measures that allow judges to give real consideration and offenders to take responsibility for their actions and change and abandon crime.
Sonia González Fuentes is coordinator of the Democratic Governance policy area of EUROsociAL+ at FIIAPP.
12 September 2019
On the occasion of the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, to be held on 16 September, Marc Reina, manager of the Police Cooperation Component of EL PAcCTO, reflects on the need for a strategic and operational framework for a more comprehensive, coordinated and multinational work against environmental crimes.
Representing an illegal business worth between 110 and 281 million dollars in 2018, according to estimates made by Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), environmental crimes have become the third most lucrative stream of illegal revenue in the world, after drugs and counterfeit goods.
These figures have increased exponentially in recent years, growing by several digits, assisted by an inadequate regulatory system and an offence classification and punishment system which often treats them as civil rather than criminal matters. In addition, allocating police and judicial investigation resources to other areas, such as drug and trafficking in human beings, as well as treating environmental crimes as low risk compared to other types of crime, has created a breeding ground for criminal activity. These organisations engage in illegal mining, deforestation and wildlife trafficking, among other practices, and encourage other crimes such as corruption, money laundering, the hiring of hit men and sexual and worker exploitation.
Bearing in mind that Latin America represents more than 40% of the world’s biodiversity and that the geographic and political complexity of the region makes effective territorial control by States difficult, the fight against environmental crimes as a whole is a herculean task.
Thus, it is necessary to develop strategic and operational actions at various levels. On the one hand, strategic development must necessarily entail the creation of an international regulatory framework, either by means of protocols annexed to important conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Convention), or by creating a new international treaty to serve as an umbrella to protect the environment and provide means for addressing environmental crimes.
On the other hand, at an operational level and in line with the conclusions and commitments of the Heads of State and the Ministers of the Interior of the seven largest economies in the world, who met at the G7 on the 4th and 5th of April, 2019, in France, efficient coordination mechanisms and police and judicial cooperation, both national and regional, is required; as well as the creation of specialised multidisciplinary Task Forces and Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). In this regard, the European Union has a significant comparative advantage over other regions, having fostered the development of institutions whose main purposes are coordination, exchange of information and inter-institutional and inter-country work. Examples of this are Europol and Eurojust.
National agreements against environmental crimes
However, in my opinion, the most efficient but perhaps most complex action is the search for strategic alliances and National agreements to develop comprehensive public policies. These policies would both prevent and establish the criminal nature of environmental crime, and would include important aspects of the fight against poverty, gender perspectives, the promotion of entrepreneurship, promotion of culture and education.
National agreements, together with their public policies, must have a majority consensus of the population and be governed by five basic principles: a willingness to provide financing and specific budgets; control and inspection; transparency; good execution; and, citizen accountability.
In this sense, Latin America has an opportunity, the experience and a duty to take on international leadership when it comes to developing comprehensive public policies to fight environmental crimes more effectively, fostering the transition to a green and responsible economy, as well as sustainable economic growth to generate business and to boost development in communities which are directly dependent on specific ecosystems for their survival.
This applies to a significant percentage of approximately 60 million people who consider themselves indigenous in the Latin American region. Many of them live in the Amazon basin, which has lost 20% of its biodiversity in the last 50 years according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, 2018), for reasons linked to overexploitation and organised crime.
Because of their way of life and their number, these communities are key not only to changing economic and human development in many countries, but also to developing new approaches to sustainable economic development, the fight against environmental crime and climate change, taking into account the collaboration between civil society, private companies with corporate social responsibility and the State.
Economic development vs. protection of natural resources
At this point, it is necessary to highlight the dichotomy between, on the one hand, excessive economic development at any cost; and, on the other, protection of natural resources. It should be noted that, in part, the increase in illegal extraction of raw materials and deforestation to create of large areas of animal pasture and plantations has been caused by an unbridled increase consumption by humans.
We have to acknowledge that there are organised criminal groups behind these crimes because there is a specific demand in this regard. Voluntarily or involuntarily. Whether or not the demand is aware of the connection between violence and crime.
It is clear that all countries and societies in the world have the right, but not the obligation, to economic, cultural, and intellectual development. However, as the impact of climate change is more than evident, we must consider the need to change an unbridled system of economic growth, that allows the emergence of numerous crimes which will end up contributing to climate change and growing violence in countries.
Therefore, it is necessary to balance frenetic human consumption with the protection of the environment.
Marc Reina, Manager of the Police Cooperation Component of EL PAcCTO