Honduras—Unidos por la Justicia (Justice, Human Rights, and Security Strengthening Activity)

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development

Duration: 2016-2021

Region: Latin America and the Caribbean

Country: Honduras

Solutions: Governance Fragile States

In the wake of the 2009 removal of President Manual Zelaya, a weak state response to gang-related crime has led to unprecedented levels of violence. The average Honduran living in an urban area faces risks such as bus robberies, indiscriminate homicides, extortion phone calls, and other criminal activities perpetrated by gangs. Along with corrupt law enforcement officials and political interests that oppose reforms, the rising violence has significantly undermined the public’s trust in the judicial system. Furthermore, disillusionment with an unresponsive government as well as fear of gang reprisals deters local leaders and citizens from working together with law enforcement officials to improve safety in their own communities.

Coupled with more than a year of citizen demonstrations to demand accountability, the Justice, Human Rights, and Security Strengthening (JHRSS) program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was launched to help address the underlying systemic failings that perpetuate high levels of crime and impunity, locally called Unidos por la Justicia, works with local partners to improve citizen engagement with the security and justice sectors; enhance the efficiency of the judicial system; and increase the effectiveness of community police.

Building on 20 years of experience leading projects in Honduras, DAI combines best practices from previous rule-of-law programs along with a “place-based” systems approach. New initiatives are first tested at the neighborhood level in target communities with highly concentrated hotspots of crime, and resulting lessons and evidence then used to replicate successes in other municipalities and promote wider institutional reform.

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Sample Activities

  • Provide training to civic and community groups on use of social accountability tools to monitor and advocate for improved government performance, including community scorecards, citizen charters, and social audit surveys.
  • Work with municipal-level judges, court staff, prosecutors, public defenders, and police to improve key services, such as victim and witness protection, evidence collection and management, timely court proceedings, and shorter pre-trial detention.
  • Engage law enforcement professionals on the importance of community policing and provide technical guidance and best practices, especially related to effective engagement with women, youth, and at-risk populations.
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