“I couldn’t be more delighted. Some may believe that it was only building walls or setting stones, but it was much more, it was building a stronger and more united community.”
We are at Infop, 1 de Abril, and Ceden neighborhoods in Choloma, a municipality that ranks among the most violent in Honduras. These were the impressions of one of the participants of the Safer Municipalities Project, which has brought dramatic changes in these communities not only by improving infrastructure but also by enhancing the way of life of its inhabitants.
Prior to 2014, those neighborhoods were considered among the most dangerous in Choloma. Robberies, gang activities and homicides were fairly frequent in their streets. Between 2008 and 2011, this community of about 15,000 inhabitants suffered an average of 10 homicides per year. This is equivalent to almost 75 homicides per 100,000 residents, a rate considered endemic by international standards.
That year, Choloma and two other municipalities (El Progreso and La Ceiba) were selected by the Government of Honduras to become beneficiaries of the Safer Municipalities Project — the World Bank’s first standalone investment loan on violence prevention. Locally renamed as “Mi Comunidad” (My Community), this initiative was conceived as a platform for the government to implement activities that reduce the risk factors of violence and inform policymakers about effective prevention methods.
Given the multiple factors that can trigger violence, the project takes an integrated approach using strategies at individual, community, and institutional levels. It works hand in hand with both central and municipal governments, and most importantly, engages closely with community members in each municipality.
Mi Comunidad develops a set of interlinked violence prevention activities engaging individuals, families, schools, and communities; as well as small-scale neighborhood infrastructure upgrading that follows a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) approach. This way, the project fosters social connections and resilience, addressing the most critical factors that affect the likelihood of an individual to engage in violent conducts. Interventions include psychosocial support, early childhood development, positive parenting and behavior change, and improving skills for employment. Activities are carried out in the community spaces built or revitalized through the infrastructure component and include workshops with community members, home visits to parents and young children, community fairs with the community, and more. For example, the psychosocial support component works with groups of youth and adults from different ages to discuss their daily challenges and reinforce key non-cognitive skills, like emotional regulation. The efficacy of many of these programs are underscored in the recently released report Stop the Violence in Latin America: A Look at Prevention from Cradle to Adulthood, which highlights the challenge that violence poses in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Evidence from around the world shows that municipal authorities are key actors in violence prevention. They not only know the local context and the needs of their communities, but also are in the best position to sustain and develop the actions to address the problem. Through Mi Comunidad, participating municipal authorities have learned about effective interventions to prevent violence and have started to replicate them in other neighborhoods within their municipalities.
Today, residents do not shy away from describing the great changes they have seen in their communities. They highlight that their communities feel safer and more peaceful as compared to before the implementation of the project. Equally important is their emphasis on the greater cohesion among community members, achieved—in great part—through the Safer Municipalities Project.
These insights are a product of the Open Learning Campus (OLC) Bite-Sized Challenge initiative. The OLC is an online platform supported by the World Bank for development learning aiming at building the leadership and technical capabilities of all development stakeholders, including partners, practitioners, policy makers, and World Bank staff. This specific initiative highlights World Bank engagements to prevent and respond to violence. Watch a video and hear the stories of SMP participants and stakeholders.