Almost seven years after the implementation of the first Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) in Santa Marta, the ambitious security policy aiming to wrest control of favela territories from drug gangs is showing major weaknesses. As 2015 began with daily shootings in pacified favelas, on February 6 the government of the State of Rio de Janeiro published an official decree establishing a program charged with furthering the institutionalization and impact of the pacification policy.
The decree officially creates the Executive Commission of Monitoring and Evaluation of Pacification Policy (CEMAPP), a technical body responsible for the implementation of public policies within the territories policed by Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) forces. The main objective of the commission is to foster dialogue between civil society and the different government secretariats—such as education and drug prevention, culture, sports, health, housing, social services, and human rights—in order to strengthen social programs in the community. The CEMAPP is presided over by Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão and is comprised of 14 State Secretariats along with representatives of the business sector.
Governor Pezão, who admitted “it is undeniable that there have been problems with the UPPs,” framed the CEMAPP as a means to addressing those issues. He declared: “The objective of this commission is to combine all our forces to rescue the initial project, in order to guarantee a social legacy for the communities.”
Each secretariat party to CEMAPP has 90 days to present a plan outlining interventions to improve the State Pacification Policy. The founding decree states that each plan must involve different technical offices in collaborative and multidisciplinary work. The CEMAPP, in close collaboration with the State Security Secretariat (Seseg), will then prioritize the most urgent issues. Seseg is responsible for the actual implementation of the pacification program, and for promoting and overseeing communication between community security councils, civil society stakeholders, government departments, and public security workers.
The commission will gather every 15 days, to assure constant progress and monitoring.
Citizen Security: An improvement over proximity policing
The decree establishing CEMAPP also aligns the state’s security policies to the concept of Citizen Security as proposed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). From the perspective of human rights, Citizen Security conceives of security as a right to which all members of a society are entitled, so that they are able to live their daily lives with minimal threat to their personal security, their civic rights and their right to use and enjoy property.
The practical manifestation of Citizen Security involves planning and policy implementation that take into account unique local contexts through participatory processes, with institutional and civil society actors collaborating. It includes actions to both prevent and control criminality and violence through social and individual development processes. The UNDP suggests successful Citizen Security programs require a strong local government, strong institutional support for participatory platforms, and, as a potential result of the first two points, integrated social policies that see security issues as inherently entwined with other key areas of economic and social development.
The CEMAPP echoes this focus on strong government leadership, while also stressing the importance of community participation alongside effective cooperation between various government departments and stakeholders. In early March of this year, Pezão said: “We want to find a way for the state, city and federal governments to come together to support the communities through social services, and to take out of the hands of the Military Police a series of services that are needed but which having nothing to do with public security.”
One significant unanswered question, however, is how exactly the commission will provide community members with meaningful opportunities to participate in and influence public security policy.
From the Cafè Comunitário to the Conselho de Gestão Comunitaria
Today, a significant challenge hindering integration between the formal and informal territories of Rio de Janeiro is the failure of the State to apply its policies and programs to the real needs of favela communities. In particular, the State fails to guarantee basic social services to all citizens, despite promises of improved programs time after time. As a direct consequence, favela residents often have low confidence in the capacity of the State to provide viable solutions to their problems and to improve their quality of life.
Marcelo Silva, president of Vidigal‘s Residents’ Association, explained that: “Community members’ participation in solving local problems represents a real challenge today. People come to the Association just to complain about problems and only when they directly affect them. It is really difficult for people to organize themselves in collective action.”
Seeking to overcome the technical gaps in the relationship between citizens and public institutions, the CEMAPP plans to transform the Café Comunitário (Community Café)—the existing community participation space within favelas—into a new kind of platform: Conselho de Gestão Comunitária (Community Management Council).
According to Roberto Valente, the UPP Commander of Providência, “The Cafè Comunitário is organized and managed by UPP officers. In these meetings, people complain about issues not related to police responsibility, such as water, sewage, electricity, transport issues. I am not the mayor. We are not able to give them any solutions.”
The main change proposed for the Conselho de Gestão Comunitária is that UPP officers and community leaders will collaborate to lead and mediate the meetings. Moreover, during each Conselho session the issues expressed by participants will be written in an official record and communicated both to the State Government and to the public institutions directly responsible for the problems’ resolutions. Valente said: “[This new system] allows for monitoring and timely solutions to residents’ complaints, thanks to a direct dialogue with public servants…The Conselho de Gestão Comunitária’s aim is to make the community the protagonist in this process. In these meetings, the police are just participants, community supporters.”
São João: The first favela to receive CEMAPP projects
Morro do São João, located in the North Zone, is the first community to receive a program of social actions and public services promoted by CEMAPP. As established by the decree, the UPP officers of São João participated in a training course with the Special Operations Commander (COE), a branch of the Military Police. Trainings covered stop and frisk techniques, proximity policing, human rights and conflict mediation. On March 30, the Commission visited the community to learn the main demands of residents and conduct a first evaluation of investments to be prioritized.
“The objective of the community visits is to guarantee access to public services, as a reinforcement of the pacification policy. In this way, we both increase the dialogue with residents and ensure the strength to extend the UPPs,” declared security secretary, José Mariano Beltrame.
The CEMAPP emerges in the midst of a security crisis in Rio de Janeiro. Now more than ever this crisis shows the negligence of a State unable to guarantee its citizens democratic and equal access to social rights. In this context, two outcomes are possible. The CEMAPP may truly seek to build platforms for collaboration between citizens and government in order to restore confidence in the State and gradually alleviate the crisis. Or the CEMAPP may follow the path of failed prior attempts that appeared well intended but ultimately sunk due to lack of authentic participation and political will.