Since 2005, UNESCO’s Youth Development and Violence Prevention Programme has aimed to reduce the risk of social exclusion and youth gang involvement in Central America.

In 2005, several Member States in Central America requested technical assistance from UNESCO to address the magnitude of the phenomenon of youth violence.

In response, the Youth Development and Violence Prevention Programme developed projects in various Central American countries. Each project runs over a period of 12 to 15 months. The goal is to establish a strategy for youth violence prevention in the region, and to encourage the governments of the participating UNESCO Member States to incorporate this strategy into their national policies.

UNESCO has supported four projects in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. A fifth project is expected to be implemented in the second semester of 2009 in the Dominican Republic.

Projects are implemented within the framework of the UNESCO strategy for the sub-region. They include integrated activities with and for youth at risk, and address causes of violence in schools, communities and families.

Projects include 5 main strategic priorities:

  • Education: promotion of activities in schools and creation of training courses for teachers involved with youths at risk;
  • Culture: development of identity benchmarks for the prevention of violence through cultural activities and best practices;
  • Communication: promotion of a more just perception of youths through “Youth for Youth” communication campaigns and the support of local radio and television stations and websites;
  • Social Sciences: promotion and dissemination of knowledge and advocacy as well as strengthening of linkages with policy-makers;
  • Entrepreneurship: capacity-building for youths at risk in micro-enterprise management.

UNESCO is also working to implement an Observatory in the region, in close collaboration with its Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme. The Observatory, which is planned to be established in Guatemala, will provide tools for researchers, NGOs and civil society. Its main objective will be to help decision-makers frame relevant prevention policies to fight youth-related violence. The overall objective is to establish a culture of prevention in the region, and to eventually use these policies to help other regions of the world stem youth violence.

Taking into account the transnational nature of the phenomenon of youth violence, UNESCO is working to build a cooperation network between the affected Central American countries. Therefore, a High Level Forum of Ministers and policy-makers in charge of youth issues was created in order to promote an open dialogue and the sharing of knowledge, best practices and concerns regarding violence prevention and youth development policies, between the Central American countries. The Forum also strives to strengthen the links between public policy and academic research on the issue, in order to create more effective interventions based on serious studies.

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