USAID Administrator Samantha Power speaks at an embassy town hall in Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Isaac Blake/USAID.
Last month in Quito, Ecuador, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced the launch of PILARES, USAID’s new citizen security program in Ecuador, implemented by Palladium. According to a USAID press release, the three-year program counters rising crime and violence in Ecuador by fostering engagement between civil society, communities, and multiple levels of government.
Rapidly deteriorating security conditions have placed violent crime and insecurity concerns on top of Ecuador’s public policy agenda. PILARES partners with local government and civil society to respond to these concerns.
Through small grants, PILARES enhances collaboration between local government and community members to promote a citizen-centric, integrated approach to addressing crime and violence.
Following a meeting with Quito Mayor Muñoz and Secretary of Security Andrade on rising crime in Quito, Administrator Power presented PILARES at the Contemporary Art Center and highlighted the timeliness of the PILARES program. “Nearly every person I spoke with shared their concern about rising rates of crime and violence throughout the country,” she said. “They all stressed the importance of improved citizen security.”
“Our goal, collectively, is for citizens to feel more secure in their homes, more secure on the streets, and more secure in their communities.”
PILARES is part of the coordinated effort to address a complex problem set that includes engaging with local partners (including community leaders who are actively working to generate more stability in the most at-risk areas), ensuring that citizens voices are heard, and disincentivizing crime networks.
Administrator Power shared that comprehensive and effective citizen security means not only better policing, but also building more secure communities through installing community alarms, better lighting, activating councils, and combating drug demand. “What is very useful about PILARES is that it allows citizens to be part of that conversation about what a comprehensive solution has to look like.”
Ecuador is also included in USAID’s Democracy Delivers Initiative, launched by Administrator Power in September 2022. This initiative aims to advance a ‘democratic opening’ in nine countries through diverse sources including development and diplomatic tools of the U.S. government, bilateral, and multilateral donors, the private sector, and the philanthropic community to support partner governments to implement and expand their reform agendas.
“The visit from USAID administrator helped showcase the multiple areas in which USAID is committed to support Ecuador,” explained the PILARES Deputy Chief of Party. “These include strengthening the response of local governments in matters of citizen security, supporting the development of the private sector, and strengthening public service delivery.”
Palladium and PILARES
In April 2023, Palladium was awarded the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) Ecuador PILARES program, a Task Order under SWIFT (Support Which Implements Fast Transitions) 5 IDIQ. OTI, located in USAID's Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Stabilization, supports U.S. foreign policy objectives by promoting stability, peace, and democracy by engaging local partners on diverse initiatives.
“Since startup, the PILARES team has achieved immense progress, including a robust portfolio of activities underway and an entire new set of activities in design,” described the Chief of Party. “It is really exciting to see PILARES build such momentum within its first phase of implementation with so many different partners. To date, PILARES has engaged municipal governments to develop more than 15 citizen security plans, facilitated a Citizen Security Council with the Mayor of Quito, designed a "Citizen Security: Shared Responsibility" Manual with the University Andina de Simon Bolivar for local government and civil society partners in Quito, Loja, and Guayaquil, and conducted a first of its kind citizen perception survey on victimization.
Through PILARES, Ecuadorian citizens will have greater opportunity to participate in municipal planning to improve security within daily life and strengthen government capacity at central and local levels to better prevent crime and violence.
“Thanks to PILARES’ early successes, we have the potential to become a flagship program for citizen security,” PILARES Chief of Party adds. “Our piloted approaches and actions have replication potential throughout the region as security keeps rising in the public discourse of different Latin American countries.”
PILARES is expanding into new geographies to continue to build partnerships at the municipal and national levels, leading activities in Guayaquil, Quito, Esmeraldas, and Pastaza, which borders the Ecuadorian protected Amazon areas. Most recently, PILARES signed a major engagement with the Consortium of Autonomous Provincial Governments of Ecuador to develop and disseminate 10 Citizen Security Plans for provincial governments across the country.
PILARES is also supporting the Quito Municipal Communications Secretariat in designing a strategic communications strategy focused on citizen security, peace, and social cohesion, which is critical to the socialization and validation of the draft Metropolitan Security Plan. This strategy includes implementing a “social listening” methodology to capture citizen perceptions, establishing an information dissemination platform on the city's public spaces plan through cultural and sports activities, and creating a journalist working group focused on the Plan’s implementation progress.
As a pioneer in citizen security programming, PILARES is addressing the root cause of crime and violence by working together with diverse stakeholders on holistic socio-economic solutions and elevating citizen participation, contributing to building best practice for the field at large.
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