The world is coming to recognise the interdependence of security and development issues. Moral imperatives
aside, poverty is no longer acceptable for reasons of simple common safety. Technology and globalisation
have made it possible for even the most marginalized groups to pose a threat to the most powerful.
Areas allowed to descend into social disarray generate, and provide refuge for, organised criminals and political
militants. Global security requires global development.
The problem is that the opposite is also true: development requires security. Investors do not put their
money in places where the rule of law does not prevail. Skilled labour does not reside in countries where
personal safety is at risk. Crime and corruption are derailing attempts to address the global polarisation of
wealth, as people choose not to invest their lives or their money where they are insecure. For the poor that
remain, the threat of crime retards their efforts to better themselves, as they structure their activities around
avoiding victimisation. Trust among countrymen is lost, and with it goes social cohesion. Cynicism about
the ability to succeed within the law breeds further insecurity, and whole regions can find themselves locked
into a downward spiral of victimisation and social disinvestment.
Further, crime and corruption undermine democracy itself. The primary responsibility of the state is to
ensure citizen security, and when it fails to establish basic internal order, it loses the confidence of the
people. When civil servants and elected officials come to be viewed as part of the crime problem, citizens
effectively disown their government. They become subjects rather than citizens. Whatever role the state
might play in development is seriously challenged by the loss of popular support.
It is therefore imperative that crime be addressed as a key development issue. Until threats to life and property
can be brought to acceptable levels, developing countries with serious crime problems will struggle to
gain the public confidence needed for forward progress. A foundational level of order must be established
before development objectives can be realised.
Due to its geographic location between the world's cocaine suppliers and its main consumers, Central
America has been exposed to exogenous organised crime pressures that would be challenging for countries
many times as large. Unfortunately, the region is particularly vulnerable to incursion by organised crime
due to a range of domestic factors, and this report opens by considering several of these, including social
and economic pressures, lack of law enforcement capacity, and a history of conflict or authoritarian rule. It
then looks at the nature of organised crime and violence in the region in some detail. Finally#, it considers
how the crime problem is undermining development efforts.