Humanitarian Exchange 69: The Humanitarian Consequences of Violence in Central America

Publication language
Date published
01 Jun 2017
Conflict, violence & peace, Urban, Development & humanitarian aid
Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN)

Over the last decade organised criminal violence in Central America has resulted in some of the highest homicide rates in the world. This violence has also generated a marked upsurge in forced displacement within countries, across the region and northwards into the United States and Mexico, creating what Jan Egeland, in his lead article for this issue of Humanitarian Exchange, calls a crisis of protection on a scale unprecedented for areas not at war. Yet as Wendy Cue and Vicente Raimundo Núñez-Flores point out, there is a reluctance among governments and assistance providers to acknowledge and frame responses to the humanitarian dimensions of this crisis. Reinforcing this point in his article on El Salvador, Noah Bullock adds that the main challenge for humanitarian actors lies in identifying and assisting people in hiding without putting them or assistance providers in more danger. 

David James Cantor and Malte Plewa analyse the dynamics of organised criminal violence and caution against underestimating the practical and conceptual challenges in responding to it, while Sabrina Stein and Colin Walch explore the nexus between humanitarian action and development in addressing the consequences of violence. Robert Muggah argues for flexible, adaptable and localised violence prevention and emergency response programmes in conjunction with civic authorities and community partners. Giovanni Bassu outlines the need for official recognition of forced internal displacement and the adoption of laws and policies in line with the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Marc Bosch and Elena Estrada discuss the strategies Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is using in Mexico to address the negative impact of forced migration on the wellbeing of refugees and migrants. Finally, in their article on armed violence and missing persons, Olivier Dubois and Rocío Maldonado de la Fuente discuss the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s experience in the region. 

Articles in the Practice and Policy Notes section reflect on power, roles and ownership in humanitarian shelter assistance, focusing on the concept of ‘self-recovery’, and humanitarian standards in urban, post-disaster contexts, with reference to a study of Sphere shelter standards in Haiti.