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Reducing urban violence in developing countries

This brief presents an integrated framework for understanding urban violence. It is informed by the findings from participatory urban appraisals of violence undertaken in 18 poor urban communities in Colombia and Guatemala.

The paper argues that evidence from Latin America challenges the popular stereotype that poverty is the main cause of violence. It does, however, show that inequality and exclusion intersect with poverty to precipitate violence. At the same time, in contexts of severe inequality, living conditions of the urban poor heighten the potential for conflict, crime, and violence.

The paper presents seven violence prevention or reduction strategies which were identified by local people in the participatory appraisals in both Colombia and Guatemala. These concurred with those of policy makers and development practitioners in the field. The strategies comprise elements of criminal justice, public health, conflict transformation, human rights, security and environmental design. The report also emphasises the important role that community organisations play in such violence reduction initiatives.