Assistant Secretary General Speech


October 10, 2017 - San Pedro Sula, Honduras

Distinguished Ministers of Security of the Americas,
Distinguished heads of delegation,
Permanent Observers to the OAS,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most honored to be here today to open this Sixth Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas. The central theme for this meeting – for which the Government of Honduras, through its Ministry of Security, is hosting us – is public security management. It is worth recalling that public security management is one of the five guiding pillars of this multilateral mechanism that brings us together every two years at the highest political and technical levels to have dialogue, discuss, and share experiences on key issues of interest on the public security agenda.

In the public security arena, as in other areas of the public sector, we tend to focus on substantive policies – in other words, policies that are designed and implemented to address a problem or challenge directly linked to crime, violence, and insecurity. Reference is made to the human, financial, material, and technological resources needed to make these policies viable and have impact. We thus have photographs, snippets of what we are doing in the field of public security. However, we don´t readily stop to think about management – that is, all of the processes, functions, procedures, rules and regulations, planning, and administration behind these substantive policies to make them work.

This Sixth Meeting of Ministers in the Field of Public Security, made possible through the efforts and commitment of the Government of Honduras regarding security issues, affords us a unique opportunity as we endeavor over the next day and a half to reflect on, discuss, and share experiences on policies, measures, and functional practices aimed at improving, streamlining, modernizing, and professionalizing public security management.

When speaking of management, we may be thinking of objectives and results-based management as a new model for public management that came to replace the traditional, bureaucratic management model. The shift towards this new public administration paradigm makes sense if we consider the following two factors.

Firstly, that crime, violence and insecurity are now a major concern for our citizens. These are problems that affect their daily lives and potentially could radically change their lives, their behavior, and their attitudes. Citizens are looking to the state to solve this problem and, given that demand, public institutions that are part of national security systems must devise strategies and plans to respond effectively while observing the rule of law and respecting rights humans. To the extent that those stated objectives are met and concrete, measurable, and sustainable results and impacts are achieved, confidence in Governments and their legitimacy will be strengthened and will also yield a positive effect in terms of public satisfaction and support for democracy.
The second factor is that objectives- and results-based management is consistent with one of the cardinal principles of democracy: transparency and accountability. To the extent that we have a grasp of the scenario of crime and violence affecting our societies, policy-making authorities must identify priorities and plan, allocate, and manage resources to deal with the problems identified in that diagnosis, based on an analysis of reliable, timely, and quality data and information. Being able to measure decisions and actions taken based on goals and objectives met, and evaluating results and impact, is one way to be transparent and accountable to state institutions and, ultimately, to citizens.

Control procedures and mechanisms (both horizontal and vertical) must also be in place for that kind of accountability to be possible and for it to become an institutionalized and normal part of operations for institutions that form public security national systems. In an era when there is little tolerance for corruption, our security sector institutions must be shielded against getting caught up in illicit networks. They must also be equipped with the procedures and mechanisms needed for management to be transparent and instill a culture of accountability as part of the ethical principles guiding how institutions operate and how their officials behave.

In talking about public security management, we may also think of role-based management. This approach is especially relevant if we take into consideration the paradigm shift from one that is highly punishment-centric approach of crime control and criminal prosecution to a more comprehensive paradigm in an effort to move beyond the false dichotomy between repression and prevention in terms of violence and crime. This is a paradigm involving, besides the police, numerous state and non-state actors coexisting and interrelating within the wider system – a national public security system. Other dimensions are also important: prevention, reintegration into society, and rehabilitation of offenders, victims and witness protection/assistance, and compensation for damages suffered.

Applying this systems approach to public security sector, each of its subsystems having specific functions and clearly-defined responsibilities, role-based management must be incorporated to help the subsystems interrelate and coordinate amongst themselves to reach common security goals and objectives.

In our discussion of public security management, not only can we talk about management of human, financial, material, and technological resources to achieve certain objectives and results that have outside, positive, and long-term impact on people’s lives and well-being but can also refer to administering a variety of key management processes. These processes are internal and are what make each subsystem of the national security system work. If what we want is public security management that is more agile, more modern, more professional, and more effective, then we must look inward and examine how the strategic planning processes, the administrative processes, the processes for selection, training, development, and ongoing evaluation of staff, the monitoring and evaluation processes, the information and knowledge management processes, etc., are working. These internal processes must be in place and managed internally, if there is to be positive external impact. Thus, discussions of public security management must approach the issue from the perspective of processes management as well.

There are two processes that I believe deserve our special attention and our joint effort to strengthen them: the processes for selection, training, developing, and evaluating officers; and the monitoring and evaluation processes.

Our region has been characterized by strong investment in the purchase of equipment, and now in the adoption of new information and communication technologies, as if these were magical, automatic solutions to the problems and challenges we face in the ​​security arena. Another common observation is that, faced with complex crime situations and citizens’ demand for more security, countries have tended to respond by deploying more police officers. This is not just a question of quantity but of quality as well, in terms of the human resources we have, hence we must begin placing more and better focus on the processes for selection, training, development, and evaluation of officers working for each institution in our countries’ national public security systems, in order to devise a system of incentives to promote excellence in the performance of duty, linking promotions to an officer’s capabilities, competence, and skills, rather than just to seniority.

This is something the Government of Honduras understands very well, not only because it has built one of the region’s most modern and most advanced police training institutes – and has made huge strides in reforming and transforming its National Police – but also because it has hosted the First Onsite Course of the Inter-American Network for Police Development and Professionalization (REDPPOL). This first four-week course brought together 58 police officers from 27 OAS member states. The course officially ends tonight, with diplomas to be handed out to the first set of graduates of this regional initiative that is committed to ongoing training for our police officers. You are all hereby publicly invited to attend the graduation ceremony.  

The Inter-American Network for Police Development and Professionalization is being introduced not only as a mechanism to reduce asymmetries and promote integration among police officers in the Americas, but also to make international standards of quality available for police institutions to evaluate police management and its constituent processes. This is precisely one of those issues that has brought us together for this meeting.

Let me now touch a bit on monitoring and evaluation processes as well, more so from the perspective of objectives- and results-based management. The institutions of our national security systems need methodologies, techniques, and processes, as well as a culture of evaluation to be entrenched, so we can produce evidence, which, in turn, would shed light on what works and what does not; and on how it works and why it works. And once we are equipped with that knowledge, and have organized and documented it, we need to establish, grease, and promote the wheels of formal and informal horizontal mechanisms for this knowledge to flow and for us to be able to learn from one another’s experiences.

Finally, we could use a variety of terms, which are not mutually exclusive, to describe public security management: democratic management, comprehensive management, integrated management, participatory management, quality management, or effective management. What I would like to emphasize is that just as the concept of security transitioned from being state-focused to being people-focused, the same logic should apply to public security management. People are the ultimate object of public security policies to prevent and reduce crime and violence, reintegrate and rehabilitate prisoners, protect, assist and compensate for harm done to victims and their family members. But people are the object of public security policies as well, insofar as they can participate at all stages of a public policy – from design, through implementation, monitoring and evaluation, to activation of control mechanisms to make management transparent.

THANK YOU ALL very much for listening, and I hope that your contributions and active participation at this MISPA will make it an enriching, useful, and productive experience for our countries, and for our citizens.