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PAZOS (Peace and Opportunities) Strategy for the Social Prevention of Violence


PAZOS is an innovative alternative to dealing with the historically high juvenile homicide rate by using public force. It was developed because the city of Palmira was among the most dangerous cities in Colombia and the world; today we have the lowest homicide rate in the city's history. We attribute this achievement to an articulated and focused intervention, oriented to the dual functionality of targeting public spending and generating opportunities through policymaking.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

In Colombia, post-conflict policies are focused on structurally transforming the conditions that generated 50 years of armed conflict in rural areas, leaving the task of building urban peace to local administrations such as the Mayor's Office of Palmira. The comprehensive violence prevention strategy - PAZOS (Peace and Opportunities) is a social innovation initiative of the local public administration as an alternative to face with public force the historical high rate of homicides in young people per 100,000 inhabitants (227 in 2011; 151 in 2015 ; and 114 in 2017), which is derived from the territorial control between criminal organizations and gangs (in its passage as a strategic route to the Pacific Ocean), as well as the lack of opportunities product of unsatisfied basic needs.

The Mayor's office established PAZOS to reduce these worrysome indicators of violence through an efficient expenditure of public resources and an articulated and intersectoral public intervention, in which all departments of the Mayor's Office must focus resources on youth (between 14 and 29 years old) and certain territories prioritized by the strategy (9 clusters where the highest number of youth homicides occur). Each agency should act and spend in a coordinated manner to make a collective intervention, not independent. In this way, with the same budget, a department of the Mayor's Office is addressing its own goals and those of PAZOS, creating a greater capacity to address and resolve the requirements in terms of coexistence, citizen security, peace building and socioeconomic supply.

Regarding its scalability, this initiative shows other cities the importance of initiating the peacebuilding process with the resources that the administration already has. Only by focusing and coordinating the intervention is it possible to strengthen existing programs and avoid greater investment in public forces to address the deterioration of security indicators in Colombia.

Based on the premise that violence is a complex phenomenon that must be approached from different perspectives and that there is no single ideal solution but, on the contrary, the solution is oriented to the combination and articulation of different strategies, the municipal administration deploys its intervention from five (5) components that seek to respond to the specific needs of the territories and from citizen participation for the implementation of the following components:

1) Interruption: Actions that contain or dissuade violent behavior in the prioritized territories by Coexistence Managers. 2) Intervention: Provision of psychosocial support, soft skills, training and economic support conditional on adherence to the process, aimed at access to the labor market for young people vulnerable to violence, reducing gaps in the opportunity to generate income legally. 3) Prevention: Implement social policy programs in the targeted territories, seeking to reduce risks through the occupation of free time of young people and children, peaceful conflict resolution and risk reduction and damage to the consumption of psychoactive substances. 4) Safe Environments: Improve the conditions of community infrastructure in micro-focused places promoting the appropriation of spaces that have historically been affected by violence and crime. 5) Access to Justice: Implement different actions to bring justice closer to citizens and show the community benefits of restorative justice measures.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

It is an alternative but integral response to the multidimensional and multicausal phenomenon of homicidal violence victimization and the escalation of community conflicts in the municipality of Palmira. Traditionally, to mitigate these indicators of violence, greater investment in public forces and even the militarization of neighborhoods and curfews in the places where they occur most often have been used.

PAZOS uses tools such as sports and art (cinema in the streets, urban art), psychosocial support and income generation and integrates them into the municipal security policy. It is a comprehensive strategy because it complements crime prevention with surveillance, the articulation of public, private and community efforts, data information analysis, technology, and community management. The strategy includes the police and other citizen security actors throughout the process, to ensure that both approaches (policing and prevention) complement each other.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Citizens: giving their vision on violence, experiences and tools to combat it through resilience dialogues.
Private sector: financial donations, employability and resources for entrepreneurship.
International donors: technical and financial advice. Mainly: Open Society Foundations, Peace In Our Cities, Barcelona Foundation, Despacio Foundation, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, UNIDIR, UNODC.
National Government: Financial resources.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Citizens: reduction of homicides and community problems. Physical improvements in their environment. Jobs and entrepreneurship.
Social organizations: growth and consolidation.
Private sector: better conditions for their operation. Greater external investment and channels of dialogue with the community.
Public sector: greater legitimacy, reduction of expenses in the health, security, and prison systems. Regional positioning.
Prison population: restorative justice processes as an alternative.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

In 2022 Palmira showcased the lowest number of homicides in the last 17 years.
Disruption. More than 600 conflict mediations in the clusters.
Intervention: 290 young people with psychosocial accompaniment and entry to an income-generating pathway. 62 young people enrolled in diploma courses and courses to strengthen job placement skills.
Prevention: 120 young people in the Urban Graphics program. 6 courses of the Municipal School of Art with 65 young people impacted. 400 young people impacted with sports tools.
Safe environments: 23 days of recovery and beautification of spaces in prioritized territories. 58 points were intervened with the change of lighting. Implementation of a 3-kilometer healthy bicycle route.
Access to justice: 23 non-repetition agreements with post convicts. Socialization of the House of Freedom with 90 inmates. 30 agreements for non-repetition of violence with adolescents in the System of Criminal Responsibility for Adolescents.

Challenges and Failures

Low legitimacy of government institutions in Colombia, as well as the unsustainability of the strategy in the future. In the face of both challenges, the general guideline is to involve citizens in the construction of the projects to be developed so that they take ownership of the solution from the beginning and demand it from future governments, as well as to shield the strategy with formal measures such as decrees and a public policy for violence prevention.

  • PAZOS involves almost all the departments of the Mayor's Office, so coordination is difficult. An attempt has been made to remedy this through the formal governance scheme.
  • The resistance that may exist in the institutions and the community to develop an alternative to traditional methods is mitigated through stories of success stories nearby, to show that it is possible to do things differently and have the same or better results.

Conditions for Success

  • Political will that enables the efficient use of resources and motivates the departments of the Mayor's Office.
  • Political and technical leadership to meet the challenges of articulation, legitimacy and ownership.
  • Citizen ownership of the strategy by obtaining short and long term benefits for which the community demands the continuity of the strategy.
  • A private sector committed and sensitized to the need to contribute and get involved in collective initiatives.
    An information and data analysis system to define and guide the administration's public policy actions.


PAZOS has the potential to be replicated by local governments in any city that has a vulnerable population group to serve. The strategy has already been replicated in neighborhoods that were not initially included, at the request of citizens. Because of its potential, PAZOS has shared its learning curve and experience in international scenarios: Innopolis, Korea Innovation Foundation - 2020; UNIDIR Conference - 2020; United Cities and Local Governments - The Hague Conversations - 2021; Latin American Cities present their Local Strategy on Violence PIOC - 2021; "How has Covid-19 shaped violence in cities? And how have cities responded?" organized by FCDO (UK Department for Economic Development) - 2021; World Parliament of Mayors Summit - Reset: Cities leading in a new era - 2021; Conference on Security, Democracy and Cities - European Forum on Urban Security and Cities for Peace Network, 2021.

Lessons Learned

A security strategy must be comprehensive and balanced. Law enforcement operations are necessary; indeed, it is important to sensitize and include law enforcement actors in violence prevention initiatives and decision making. However, the coercive and punitive approach must be complemented by mitigating the causes of violence and undertaking initiatives (hopefully very attractive to the target population) that allow the municipality's potential to be achieved.

In addition, given that violence has a multi-causality, the solution to this problem must be multidisciplinary and must be co-constructed with the citizenry based on successful experiences that are already underway. For this reason, it is important to start with a diagnosis and construction of Vulnerability, Risk and Opportunity Maps. The advice is not to start from scratch but from what has been built, thus gaining legitimacy and willingness to cooperate in its implementation.

It is also important to have a clear objective, but not to forget secondary factors. Although the focus of the strategy is homicidal violence, the Mayor's Office takes into account other indicators regarding the increase in the dynamics of community violence, such as personal injuries, domestic violence and sexual crimes, which can easily lead to new homicides. This makes it possible to monitor the escalation of conflict and anticipate actions of different kinds.

Finally, a periodic and constant review of results should be carried out to facilitate efficient execution. This field of social violence prevention has so many and varied tools that the public sector should seek the greatest possible iteration. Be open to incorporate new inventions in the fight against violence, as well as to receive technical cooperation from actors with expertise in the field.

Year: 2020


Level of Government: Local government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

6 December 2022

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