This paper explores how civil society organizations have interacted with government authorities and security forces in four Mexican cities where violence and organized crime have been on the rise. The four cities – Ciudad Juárez, Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana – have many shared characteristics, the most important of which are that they are all border cities, and that they are all facing down extremely violent criminal organizations.
Despite these similarities, civil society’s ability to interact effectively with the government and security forces has varied widely. The paper is broken down by city in order to better assess each attempt individually. In each section, the authors give background to the problem, a profile of the civil society organizations present, a description of their attempts to interact with the government and security forces, and an assessment of the successes and failures of those attempts.
These attempts are ongoing, but to advance the discussion, the authors offer the following key observations from their research:
- Civil society organizations are strongest when they combine various sectors of society, stretch across political parties and have solid, independent voices.
- Local authorities are the key to more security, but civil society actors need the support of federal level politicians to achieve the highest levels of interaction and effectiveness.
- It is necessary to involve security forces directly in these interactions in order for there to be any broad, long-term security gains for the civilian populace.
- Civil society works best with government when its role is clearly defined at the earliest stages with the government and security force interlocutors.