Youth Economic Opportunities and Violence in Central America
Five of the top countries in the world with the highest youth homicide rates are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Violence impact youth opportunities. On the one hand, violence negatively affects economies, education and employment. On the other, youth are overrepresented in crime statistics, both as perpetrators and as victims of violence. The cross road between youth, violence and economic opportunities has become a policy priority. Programs and policies are frequently based on an oversimplified and unsubstantiated assumption: unemployment and lack of economic opportunities for youth lead to an increase of violence while creating economic opportunities for young people is an effective way to “pull” them out of violence. But, we know little about how violence and youth opportunities interact with each other.
Canada´s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has launched a research program to address this knowledge gap. Flacso Costa Rica has been leading this research and coordinating a regional program where 9 applied research projects are examining the relationships between youth economic opportunities and violence in Central America and testing solutions.
Does providing youth economic opportunities reduce violence? Is youth more violent due to the lack of opportunities? How do different forms of violence impact on youth trajectories? Which are the mechanisms by which violence and opportunities affect each other? Through 3 brief case studies in Central America, this webinar discussed how violence and youth opportunities interact and how the high violence/low opportunities equilibrium in the region can be addressed. The webinar finished with the launch of a new knowledge and learning hub: “Vidas Sitiadas.” The webinar shared lessons and evidence to improve policies and programs to be more effective in reducing youth violence and economic exclusion by questioning traditional assumptions and proposing new ways to frame and address this challenge.
Main Learning points included:
1. Strategies to overcome youth stigmatization and consider youth as change agents
2. The role of the private sector to incorporate youth from marginalized highly violent territories
3. What works and does not to foster YEO in context of urban violence and strategies to scale effective interventions