The Instituto Sou da Paz is a Non Government Organization with headquarters in São Paulo, that for over 10 years has been working in the prevention of violence in Brazil, in the attempt to influence public policies in this field.
Identified as being one of the greatest concerns of Brazilians, violence began to increase during the 1980´s and continued to soar in ensuing decades. Between the years 1980 and 2000, the rate of homicides increased three-fold in the country.
Although this affects people in different ways, such a phenomenon has generated a great deal of fear and insafety among the population. As a response to this, governments have primarily adopted a reactive and repressive stance, defending an increase in stringency of penalties and building prisons as the sole solution for the problem. However, such measures have not had a consequent decrease in indices.
To be able to construct effective solutions against violence, it is necessary to gain a better knowledge of the problem, seeking information on where violence is concentrated, who is the public that is the most affected, and in which circumstances it takes place. With such information at hand, it is possible to come up with efficient strategies to guarantee safety for all, alongside always with preventive actions and control mechanisms.
By observing how violence is manifested in Brazil, we can note that:
- Fire weapons play a pivotal role. Surveys* state that approximately 70% of the homicides in Brazil are committed with fire arms. For this reason, Instituto Sou da Paz has, since its inception, been struggling to control the circulation of weapons in the country. In 2003, after intense work with mobilization, it was able to approve the Statue on Disarmament.
- Homicides are concentrated in the outskirts of large cities and mainly attain young adult men. This is why Sou da Paz is active in these communities, through projects that seek to stimulate and strengthen juvenile participation and their protagonic role, community articulation and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
- The Police represent a fundamental agency for public safety and need to act in an intelligent and effective manner, closely tied to society to attain concrete results when it comes to reduction of violence. Thus, the Instituto Sou da Paz acts alongside with this institution, with a focus on enhancing their work and disseminating good police practices.
- City Halls have a significant role to play in the prevention of violence. With this purpose in mind, Sou da Paz attempts to involve municipal management and renders consultancy to City Halls in drafting diagnosis of violence, as well as in the construction of plans to address such a problem.
The work carried out by Instituto Sou da Paz in these four areas consists in developing innovative methodologies and in fostering mobilization activities in the society at large, enabling the latter to exert pressure on public policies and vindicate results. Through this, Sou da Paz intends to inspire public policies on safety and motivate, through joint action, the possibility for each actor to play a role in what is a shared problem.
More than a mere wager, our action based on these guidelines and strategies brings concrete results, such as the drop in homicides which has occurred in the country since 2003. The Jardim Angela District and the city of Diadema, sites acknowledged because of their high indices of violence, have been able to invert this situation in the short term and constitute examples that can be followed.
* Survey from the Health Ministry and the Justice Ministry: Reduction of Homicides in Brazil, 2007