Palmira, Colombia

2023-09-28 15:07:23

PAZOS: Peace and Opportunities for Palmira



  • Population size: 361375
  • Population Growth Rate(%): 14.00
  • Surface Area (sq. km): 1123
  • Population Density (people/ 311.04
  • GDP Per Capita (U.S.$): 6104.14
  • GINI Index: 0.52
  • URL/Webpage of your local government and your initiative:
  • Main Source of Prosperity (e.g. industry, trade, tourism, creative industry, etc.): Trade and agriculture


PAZOS is a comprehensive strategy that offers an innovative alternative to the Colombian government's traditional approach to violence, particularly in Palmira, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. This umbrella strategy includes a variety of programs and resources, both public and private, to effectively reduce violence. Today the city has the lowest homicide rate in 17 years. The strategy is made up of five components: 1) Disruption; it aims to keep conflicts from escalating into fatal violence. 2) Intervention; it aids in the development of legal life initiatives through psychosocial assistance. 3) Prevention; aims to create abilities in young people to prevent violence using a variety of means, including sports, culture, health, and education. 4) Safe Environments; community venues are being restored to become protective environments. 5) Improved access to justice: through restorative justice methods and supporting the Adolescent Criminal Responsibility System.



The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 3,10,16 and 17 outlines a global vision, of equity, peace, and cooperation. Colombia adopts this vision at the national level through key policies, such as CONPES 4089- National Criminal Policy Plan 2022-2025, which addresses crime issues, and CONPES 4040- Colombia Pact with Youth, for the comprehensive development of youth. In addition, the National Policy for the Coordination of Criminal Responsibility for Adolescents is essential for this strategy and the PAZOS Decree 961 of 2020, as a governance scheme.



Palmira was named one of the world's most dangerous cities due to its high homicide rate, and there were no explicit and innovative institutional initiatives to solve it. The institutional response primarily considered heavy-handed methods, as has been done in Colombia in the past, and the institutional offer did not complement one another to focus on young people, who are the primary victims and perpetrators of violence due to recruitment by criminal organizations.


- PAZOS' major goal is to ensure that young people have access to alternatives and can build a life project away from illegal armed groups. PAZOS is an “umbrella strategy” that allows the articulator (in this case the municipal mayor) to provide comprehensive attention to the vulnerability of different population groups (in the case of Palmira, young people linked to the dynamics of violence). PAZOS establishes and articulates public, private, and international projects with the aim of optimizing the investment made in the municipality and directing it towards achieving tangible results.


- The implementation time of the strategy is from 2020 to 2023, with a total of four years of implementation.


- PAZOS is innovative since there has never been a well-articulated social offer for young people who are recruited by criminal organizations and are the major target of violence. PAZOS accomplishes this by bringing together the resources of the governmental, corporate, and philanthropic sectors to reduce violence and translating them into practical achievements such as a historic decrease in teenage killings.

- PAZOS has multi-stakeholder governance for the successful articulation of the interventions undertaken. This governance was formalized in a municipal decree that shares management and results indicators, as well as monitoring the budget execution of both the municipality and the resources provided by the network of partners.


PAZOS has developed cooperation agreements with different actors. Thus, each of the PAZOS components has strategic allies that provide the component with technical and financial resources. This is innovative in that it has made it possible to leverage the strategy and overcome the problem of limited resources faced by the Mayor's Office of Palmira. Each partner also strengthens its mission.


The team collaborated closely with many foundations that were already operating in the territory and implementing various violence reduction strategies. The team has strengthened them via multiple initiatives, believing that when the government changes, these groups will be the ones to carry on the task that has been started. The team has also collaborated closely with the business sector, which has offered financial support and assisted us in finding positions for the young people who successfully finished the process. Finally, international cooperation agencies such as the United Nations have provided technical assistance in the project's design. In fact, because of its results and innovation PAZOS has been invited to share its learning curve and significant experiences in the public administration of violence prevention programs in several international scenarios. PAZOS is a participant in the Pathfinders' Task Force on Halving Global Violence and Peace in Our Cities platform.


The strategy has been implemented with the budget of different departments of the Palmira Mayor's Office, which was previously spent in a disjointed and unfocused manner. Then, no large budget additions have been made thanks to the optimization of public spending. The above has been complemented with technical and financial resources from international and national cooperation that feed each of the components of the strategy. The team hired a small strategy management team to guarantee proper alignment inside the Mayor's Office and across stakeholder groups. This multidisciplinary team is in charge of carrying out the numerous decision-making scenarios and bringing the planned initiatives to reality.



The initiative is revolutionary because it focuses on prevention, leaving aside the traditional punitive measures that have always been used. Rather than using the typical approach to addressing youth homicide in the city, PAZOS uses a variety of strategies to address the socioeconomic causes of violence. Therefore, interventions that go beyond policing are proposed under just one framework and directed successfully to the population focus. The initiative is a platform for innovation and social development, based on the idea of strengthening citizenship for vulnerable populations by enhancing its dimensions: individual, family, productive, and citizen, as well as artistic mediation as a pedagogical element to boost achievements in each of these dimensions.


It is evolutionary because during these three years of implementation it has built on what has been learned, to such an extent that today, together with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an exercise is being developed so that PAZOS will no longer be a strategy of this government but a public policy with a 10-year financial and operational projection. This public policy has been structured based on lessons learned and good practices, taking into account the main accumulated change: the lowest homicide rate in 17 years.


Also, it is evolutionary because PAZOS is the outcome of knowledge gained in the neighboring city of Santiago de Cali. In that city, a first initiative called the Model for the Social Prevention of Violence was built, which had the same goal of articulating different peacebuilding stakeholders, but it failed in five ways: 1) it did not have a team exclusively in charge of the Strategy; 2) the municipal mayor did not personally support the strategy nor in his government plan; 3) the strategy was housed in a single unit: the Secretariat of Security and was not transversal, 4) it did not have a good relationship with the security authorities like the Police; and finally, 5) it did not have a sustainability strategy. PAZOS in Palmira fixed each and every one of these flaws, allowing for an improved version of the efforts made by previous local governments.



After 3 years of implementation, Palmira has the lowest homicide rate since data has been available. Now, thanks to an impact evaluation funded by Open Society Foundations and executed by the Javeriana University in Cali, Colombia, there is evidence of a causal relationship between the implementation of the strategy and the reduction of homicides in Palmira.


Overall, the strategy aims to have an indirect impact on the city's 118,195 residents (32% of the total population) who live in 7 PAZOS clusters (6 urban and 1 rural) that include 42 neighborhoods, as well as more than 3000 young people (2021) who are directly serviced by the PAZOS programs.


PAZOS has a battery of follow-up indicators that enable careful monitoring of progress achieved and challenges. Management and operational committees are set up to make short- and medium-term decisions possible. There are also reports on the budget execution of the different agencies that develop programs within the framework of the strategy. Likewise, there is a consolidated record of the cooperation resources managed each year to date. There are also records of the number of people directly and indirectly impacted by the programs that PAZOS brings together and organizes, some of which are broken down by variables. Everything is measured by the staff of the mayor's office.


PAZOS has two targeting mechanisms as a result of rigorous data analysis:

1) Territorial targeting: implementation is carried out in clusters that concentrate the highest number of homicides and criminal acts which are called clusters. There are seven (7) PAZOS clusters (6 urban and 1 rural) that include 42 neighborhoods, as well as more than 3000 young people (2021) who are directly serviced by the PAZOS programs.

2) Population targeting: it works with young people between the ages of 16 and 29.

Overall, the strategy aims to have an indirect impact on the city's 118,195 residents (32% of the total population) who live in 7 PAZOS clusters (6 urban and 1 rural) that include 42 neighborhoods, as well as more than 3000 young people (2021) who are directly serviced by the PAZOS programs. The strategy's ultimate goal is for the entire population to benefit from it in the future. Lowering the level of violence attracts foreign investment, which increases jobs and opportunities for everyone in the town. Thus, the corporations in the mayor's office will collect more taxes, which will allow for more overall social investment



Goal 1: End poverty in all of its forms

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions for all

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development