Honduras—Unidos por la Justicia (United for Justice)

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 Unidos por la Justicia (United for Justice) 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. 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 are 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.

Select Results

Institutional Reform supporting:

  • Reorganization of Integrated Justice Centers in the northern cities of San Pedro Sula (pop. 720,000) and La Ceiba (pop. 198,000) using a replicable model, and built capacity in the cities’ regional Inter-Institutional Criminal Justice Sub Commissions, where police, prosecutors, and judges convene to improve local administration of justice, especially for vulnerable groups.
  • Adoption of digital case files, projected to increase efficiency and transparency in a national criminal justice system that handles 125,000 cases annually.
  • System upgrades at the Ministry of Human Rights, Attorney General’s and Public Defender’s Offices, and Judicial School.
  • Installation of facial recognition and fingerprint processing systems to speed up positive identification, which will be connected with mobile crime scene units, the National Persons Registry, and National Migration Institute.

Access to Justice and Civil Society:

  • Provided 625 vulnerable individuals with psychological support and legal counsel via civil society organizations (CSOs) empowered by Unidos.
  • Launched training in social auditing for 23 CSOs to detect corruption; 48 CSOs to conduct oversight in security, justice and human rights; and 38 CSOs in crime data analysis and citizen security.

Community Policing:

  • Supported 270 National Police community relations activities that attracted 44,760 residents of 29 high-crime barrios, with double these activities planned through 2020;
  • Supported 25 trainings for 570 people, mostly police officers, on human rights and community policing issues, and produced curriculum to be instituted by the National Police Academy.

Protecting Women:

  • Designed training to support female survivors of violence now incorporated into National Police Academy coursework.
  • Fostered National Police initiative to develop a Gender Policy. Supported National Police Mother’s Day-themed information fairs that provided gender-based violence information to 800 people, mostly women, in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba.
  • Facilitated network of 215 volunteers in four cities to advise female victims of violence and steer them to legal and psychological services.
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