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Latin America Caribbean Director Discusses IRI’s Governance Work in Testimony to Senate Foreign Relations Committee

July 18, 2014

Washington, DC – Stephen Johnson, director of IRI's Latin America and Caribbean programs, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the Institute’s democratic governance programs in Central America.

In his testimony, Johnson focused on IRI’s work with local governments and civil society to find solutions to citizen security issues as a way to improve communities in Central America. 

"In Guatemala, the national government has established a countrywide network of municipal security councils (MSC) comprised of citizens and local government representatives charged to devise public safety recommendations under the national prevention strategy and serve as a bridge between citizens, municipal government and national police components.  IRI runs workshops for these MSCs to help identify community safety problems and develop collaborative solutions.  Peer exchanges encourage dialogue at the global level.  As part of the IRI Rising Stars program, Guatemalan mayors have traveled to cities in Chile and Colombia to learn about innovative municipal security practices and ways to enhance citizen services.

"In Puerto Cortés, Honduras, IRI has coordinated with the municipal government to train neighborhood leaders calledpatronatos in promoting community safety in coordination with local authorities and the police.  Puerto Cortés is renowned for building its own command center staffed by local citizens who receive emergency calls and then dispatch national police units where they are needed.  In the “Together for our CommUNITY” program, the local patronatos learn negotiation, trust-building and communication techniques to obtain more effective cooperation and information from citizens.  IRI is hoping to replicate this practice in other Central American municipalities to help local authorities limit opportunities for criminal activities to flourish."

Johnson concluded by saying, “Coupled with municipality-by-municipality governance reform initiatives like IRI’s to build links of cooperation between citizens, local authorities and nationally administered police units, territory can be slowly recovered from criminal organizations and gangs.”