Latin America and the Caribbean - Youth Violence Prevention

The Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region is home to less than 8% of the world’s population, but its rates of crime and violence are some of the highest in the world, with 37% of all homicides. Young people are the main victims and perpetrators of violence in the LAC region. The World Bank (2016) reports that the homicide rate for males aged 15-24 in the region is almost four times the overall regional average.

The Latin America and the Caribbean Youth Violence Prevention (LAC YVP) project’s overarching goal is to enable and improve the capacity of the funder, USAID, and key stakeholders to successfully implement crime and violence prevention programming in the LAC region. As minimal evidence exists on what works to prevent violence in the LAC region, generating and disseminating new evidence to inform policy and practice are important components of the project. Considering that crime and violence disproportionately affects young people, the LAC YVP project uses a positive youth development approach.

This project is part of USAID’s YouthPower, and pursues the following areas of effort:

Increasing Information and Evidence on Crime and Violence in the LAC Region

AIR carries out regional-, country-, and community-specific research activities to better understand the extent of violence and crime, as well as its drivers and risk factors. We have produced a range of reports and resources, including:

  • An evidence map and gap analysis report (PDF) that provides an assessment of the global evaluation evidence from crime and violence interventions that affect youth. This report informs policymakers and practitioners working in the LAC region about the effectiveness of different types of interventions and where there are gaps in research and helps them determine which evidence-based interventions to pursue further.
  • A Multisector Youth Violence Prevention Resource Guide (PDF) to help stakeholders working in education, health, and workforce development understand the types of violence that affect youth in the LAC region, and to propose multisector approaches to mitigate violence.
  • An assessment of violence affecting youth in Colombia to understand the causes of violence in urban under-served areas. This assessment used a youth-centered, participatory research approach to explore their experiences, problems and solutions in relation to violence in their communities.
  • Two studies on gang involvement and disengagement that explore the factors involved in youth joining or leaving gangs in Honduras and Guatemala. For these studies, the research team conducted surveys and in-depth interviews with current and former gang members.
  • A feasibility study (PDF) to determine whether using the Focused Deterrence approach can help lower violence and strengthen communities in El Salvador.
  • A study on unaccompanied children migrating (PDF) from the Northern Triangle to the U.S., and the relationship between migration and violence. This study analyzed confidential data from the Department of Homeland Security. View a summary and infographic of this report (PDFs).
  • A guide on aligning and choosing indicators and interventions (PDF) for youth violence prevention efforts in the LAC region. This guide can inform planning, implementation, and evaluation of new and ongoing programs.
  • With our partner, Democracy International, we updated the 2016 Crime and Violence Prevention Field Guide, intended for USAID and stakeholders to inform policymaking, program design, and implementation in the LAC region. The new version of the Crime and Violence Prevention Field Guide (PDF) contains updated evidence, research, and guidance.
  • Following two previous studies, AIR is conducting a study in Nicaragua to explore changes in citizens’ perceptions of safety and security in their communities.

Small Grants Focused on Risk/Need Assessment Tools

AIR is issuing grant funding to organizations to develop capacity in the LAC region to adopt, adapt, implement, and validate youth violence risk and need assessment tools. These grants aim to better identify program beneficiaries, examine broader youth needs in the community, monitor changes in risk level over time, and use data to inform strategic policy decisions. Grants are also underway to identify and assess the risk factors that underlie violence and migration, to determine the feasibility of implementing gang disengagement and reintegration strategies in country-specific contexts, and to conduct cost-benefit analyses of USAID activities to improve youth education and employment outcomes. Country-specific grantees are located in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras; region-wide grant work is also being implemented from research partners in the U.S. and the region.

Disseminate Evidence and Information on What Works to Prevent Crime and Violence

To share information and assist stakeholders to use and apply new information and evidence, AIR, with partner Democracy International, has organized, sponsored, and hosted a variety of events and platforms for stakeholders to convene, share knowledge and information, and strengthen capacity to design, implement, and evaluate violence prevention programs.

As part of this learning component, AIR developed a four-part eLearning module for USAID staff on the topic of youth violence prevention. The module is designed to support USAID Mission staff in their role designing, overseeing, and monitoring the performance of activities that are specific to preventing or reducing interpersonal and community-based violence.

  • Section One: The Causes and Consequences of Interpersonal and Community-based Violence introduces the roots and results of interpersonal and community-based violence and lays the groundwork for the rest of the eLearning module.
  • Section Two: Selecting and Using Approaches to Maximize Impact of USAID Violence Prevention Activities offers information and strategies to support the selection and use of violence prevention and reduction strategies, emphasizing the importance of aligning evidence-based approaches with the correct target population, to avoid unintended harm and maximize impact.
  • Section 3: Supporting the Effective Implementation of USAID Violence Prevention Activities provides tools to support USAID Mission staff in their role overseeing the selection and use of violence prevention strategies supplied by external implementers.
  • Section 4: Monitoring, Evaluating, and Learning from USAID’s Violence Prevention Activities contains material to guide USAID Mission staff as they consider the best ways to monitor, evaluate, and learn from the agency’s violence prevention activities, with a focus on choosing relevant indicators at the most appropriate level of impact.

Throughout each section in the module there are links to external tools, materials, and definitions, interactive activities, learning checks and examples from the field, along with first-hand commentary by USAID staff who oversee violence prevention activities. When combined with the eLearning module, this compendium serves as a USAID desktop guide to the prevention and reduction of interpersonal and community-based violence.

This project is funded by USAID through the YouthPower Evidence & Evaluation IDIQ, and will operate between 2016 and 2021.