The impact of armed violence on children and adolescents has become a major challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean. In Brazil, for instance, an estimated 39 adolescent homicides are recorded every day, with the vast majority of these victims being Afro-Brazilian adolescents and young people from peri-urban areas.

On 17-18 July, 2018, in order to tackle this issue and find innovative solutions, UNICEF Brazil held the International Workshop entitled “Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents Affected by Armed Violence in Brazilian Urban Centres” in Rio de Janeiro.

During this workshop, different specialists considered global, regional and local perspectives when addressing the characteristics, contexts, manifestations, impacts and challenges of armed violence affecting that population group, with particular emphasis on Brazil. Other topics of discussion included a series of initiatives and good practices in the region regarding armed violence prevention and reduction, as well as a series of mechanisms to enhance responses aimed at guaranteeing safe environments for children and adolescents, with the focus being placed on the protection of their rights.

Within this framework, UNLIREC presented the preliminary findings of its ongoing research project on the phenomenon of Weapons in Schools, a problem that is present in varying degrees throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In recent years, public opinion, studies and specialized diagnoses have all identified the presence of firearms in schools as a risk factor for the creation and reproduction of violence in such environments. In that regard, UNLIREC made reference to the various manifestations of this phenomenon and shared the responses and projects that some Governments and other actors in the region have been implementing to address and prevent the presence of firearms and armed violence in schools.

The event concluded with participants acknowledging the need to move forward with interventions concerning armed violence prevention. These interventions must be based on the protection of the rights of children and adolescents and should be comprehensive, focused, coordinated and inclusive, especially at the local level. Another noteworthy point was the need to remain focused on and to consider the structural factors influencing armed violence in communities. Participants also noted the importance of making greater efforts to enhance and develop more effective controls governing the use and proliferation of firearms and ammunition.

There were over 100 workshop participants from public institutions, civil society organizations, young people and adolescents from Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian states, as well as representatives from specialized UN agencies, guests and international experts.