Democracy and Citizen Security / Democracia y Seguridad Ciudadana

This section is divided into four subsections:


The Political Database of the Americas with the cooperation of the Colombia Program, both projects of Georgetown University's Center for Latin American Studies, have joined forces to design and develop this section on "Democracy and Citizen Security". The PDBA has also obtained the collaboration of other institutions, among them, FLACSO-Chile (Program on Security and Citizenship) support the research in this area and to build a comparative database on citizen security in the Americas.

Traditionally, security has been addressed in the general context of "national security" and "public security." In this context, "national security" focuses on protecting the state and its institutions, mainly from external threats posed by other states. In contrast, "public security" deals with protecting persons and property from threats such as physical aggression, criminal violence, and terrorism.

The end of the Cold War brought a change in these traditional approaches and past paradigms for addressing security are no longer appropriate for dealing with new realities, threats and challenges. In 2003, the OAS adopted the "Declaration on Security in the Americas" that represents a new approach toward hemispheric security, taking into account globalization and radical changes that have taken place in the Hemisphere over the last decades. The Declaration concludes that the traditional political-military approach to security falls short in addressing non-traditional threats, such as intra-state insurgencies, terrorism, illegal migration, diseases, natural disasters, human rights violations, extreme poverty and inequality, illegal trafficking of drugs, arms, persons or other goods. Many of these new challenges are transnational in nature and require hemispheric cooperation. Responses to security threats considered in this broader sense requires active participation and joint efforts between international organizations, national state institutions, local governments and civil society including the media, watchdog groups, academia, special commissions, community policing groups, private enterprises, human rights groups, and think tanks. What is also new in this approach towards security is the incorporation and use of a development rationale, positioning security at the intersection of governance, rule of law, economic reform, post-conflict resolution and reconstruction processes, conflict prevention, and armed forces and police reform.

Together with the emergence of a multidimensional conception of security, another fundamental trend in the region since the late 70s has been the process of transitions towards democratic regimes, including free and fair elections of civilian leaders. In this new political and institutional framework, citizens are entitled to feel secure and protected in their daily lives. Public outrage over the lack of government commitment to promote citizen security, reduce crime and violence, and contain conflict, may result in lack of credibility of public institutions such as the judiciary and the police and negatively affect trust in democratic governance. Thus, poor quality citizen security policies may affect different sectors of the population and generate both direct and indirect social, economic and political costs.