Geneva, Switzerland, 8-9 July 2014 – The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development is a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development. It supports States and civil society actors to achieve measurable reductions in the global burden of armed violence by 2015 and beyond. The Geneva Declaration was launched in 2006 and as of today, 112 states have officially endorsed it.
After the Regional Conference for Americas held in Guatemala in April this year, Switzerland hosted on 8 and 9 July the second Conference for Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, gathering approximately 120 participants from 30 countries, in order to review progress on the implementation of the principles laid out in the Geneva Declaration. During the Conference, the Geneva Declaration Handbook was promoted, which aims to help government officials and other interested parties to translate their commitments into national and local approaches by offering a flexible and wide range of suggestions, options and resources to be adapted according to the local context.
The Conference was open to all member states, civil society, international organisations, and other interested stakeholders from Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. During plenary and parallel sessions, the Conference focused on sharing the participants’ examples of good practice and experience regarding armed violence, and promoted the development of partnerships and means of cooperation between governments, civil society, international organisations and development cooperation agencies.
Cities as actors of armed violence prevention and reduction – parallel session
Urban insecurity and violence are major preoccupations of policymakers, planners and development practitioners in cities around the world. Panelists presented the experiences in the prevention of violence of cities and municipalities that involve multiple stakeholders. As the main objective of this session was to share experiences, best practices, and case studies involving urban approaches to reduction and prevention of violence, this was a place for Efus to present its goals, values, tools, on-going projects and also achievements and success stories.
During his presentation, Svetislav Paunovic, a former UN-Habitat coordinator in southern Serbia with whom Efus worked in a local project in 2010-11, presented Efus as an association of European local and regional authorities, advocating the balanced view of security: prevention – social cohesion – sanction. He emphasised that, “cities represent citizens better than any other level of government”, after which he presented several examples of good practice achieved in Serbia through their partnership with Efus and the UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme. One of the key messages was to emphasise the role of local governments in crime prevention policies through the exchange of know-how, ideas and practices among local authorities throughout Europe. Some examples include: results achieved within the pilot project “Stop Drugs – Čačak Safer Town” and the adoption of the Charter for a democratic use of video surveillance in European cities by Serbian municipalities as part of the Efus project “Citizens, Cities and Video Surveillance”, which gathered ten partner cities in Europe.
Youth as change factor – parallel session
The panelists shared experiences of youth serving as central actors in innovative approaches to increase security and peaceful coexistence, such as in Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo. It was noted that further development and implementation of peace and reconciliation programmes are necessary in order to help young people to overcome the psychological consequences of armed violence. Panelists presented rather impressive examples of success in their respective projects. For example, the “Fight for Peace” organisation uses boxing and martial arts combined with education and personal development to realise the potential of young people in communities that suffer from crime and violence.
Civil Society Statement at the Closing Plenary Session
At the final plenary session a statement prepared by the Global Alliance on Armed Violence, and shaped with the support of civil society representatives during the Conference, was presented as An Agenda for Action. “We, civil society, gathered at the Regional Review Conference for the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development have prepared this Statement in order to review progress in implementing the principles of the Geneva Declaration”. The draft statement brings together the themes raised during discussions between civil society representatives, which include effective partnerships and assistance, plans for post-2015 and how to measure and monitor armed violence.
Closing Plenary Session and final remarks – the voice of cities in Europe
During the final plenary session, in which the results of the Conference were summarised, “the importance of a holistic approach to armed violence” was emphasised. “Cities have to promote and apply a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach to the prevention of violence, using different tools and methodologies. Inclusiveness means not only working with groups in need in prevention programmes, but also with local authorities and institutions, together with target groups, in order to build on local capacities”. This statement, drawn from the main messages of the Efus presentation and the open discussion during one of the plenary sessions, represents the voice of cities in Europe, heard and recognised by the Conference participants and organisers.
The above-mentioned conclusions will be specified in the final Conference recommendations, which will present the opportunity to further strengthen the role of cities and local authorities in the implementation of the Geneva Declaration.
More on the Regional Conference can be found on the Geneva Declaration website: http://www.genevadeclaration.org/2014rrc/rrcswitzerland.html