22-23 October 2019 – Over the last few decades, in some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, reports of firearms being found in schools have become increasingly common. These cases include, among others, students who are caught carrying firearms, armed students who threaten and intimidate their classmates and teachers, as well as accidental and intentional shootings within schools. Such events point to a phenomenon that exists within the region in many shapes and forms.

In Lima, Peru, UNLIREC, with the financial support of the Swedish Government, held the Regional Seminar on initiatives for preventing and dealing with the presence and use of firearms in schools within the region. This was done with the goal of promoting regional dialogue and exchange of experiences on this phenomenon.

During the Seminar, the most significant findings of a recent UNLIREC study on the phenomenon of firearms in schools within the region were presented. This served to examine the main characteristics, impacts and challenges surrounding this issue. In addition, a key part of this Seminar was to reveal a series of initiatives being implemented in different countries in the region to deal with and combat the presence and use of firearms in school settings.

Among the experiences shared through this Seminar are: protocols and guidelines for intervention and prevention against the presence and use of firearms in schools; equipment for data collection and management; awareness and education campaigns concerning the use of firearms and armed violence; other initiatives dedicated to reinforcing schools as safe, violence-free spaces.

Additionally, this Seminar included a group work session in which participants proposed suggestions and recommendations to ensure a comprehensive approach to the challenge posed by the presence and use of firearms in schools within the region. As part of this session, participants agreed on the necessity of a specific approach to this phenomenon, as well as the importance of specific measures and tools in knowing how to act and prevent incidents involving students with firearms within schools. These responses must prioritise the best interests of children, teenagers and young people, considering the circumstances and motivations behind each incident. They also identified the need for early-warning systems, working with the subjective dimension and social and cultural acceptance that comes with firearms, paying close attention to dominant patterns and cultural stereotypes built around masculinity.

More than 80 people participated in this event. Among them were government representatives from the education and public safety sectors, United Nations agencies, civil society organizations and experts from Latin American and Caribbean countries.

As part of their mandate and in compliance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNLIREC will continue promoting dialogue on these topics at the regional, national and local levels. The purpose of this is to strengthen responses to this type of violence that jeopardises and weakens one of the most important spaces for ensuring the proper development of the region’s children, teenagers and young people.