Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Belize Engagement Evaluation Report

Author, Copyright Holder: 
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO)
Language: 

The 2012 Belize engagement of the U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) was a small innovative program to reduce gang activity and violence in Southside Belize City by developing mediation and community dialogue capacity. The evaluation found that mediation was very effective and showed promise for expansion, while community dialogue was resonating but making slower progress and institutional issues hampered sustainability. Recommendations of the evaluation inspired a second wave of programming in 2013 to plug gaps in community dialogue training, train mediators more grounded in gang neighborhoods, and improve program management capacity of the local partner, as well as a grant from the U.S. Embassy to the local partner allowing it to hire dedicated staff. Community dialogues consequently grew eight-fold and mediators and trainers doubled. The Prime Minister praised the program for establishing "a sustainable, Belizean community-based approach to reduce violence." While other programs and factors likely contributed, the homicide rate in Belize City decreased by roughly 50% in 2013, though increasing in several other locations. This was the first formal evaluation conducted by CSO, and was conducted as an independent internal evaluation by CSO's Office of Learning and Training. 

Belize Engagement Evaluation Report:  Executive Summary

CSO piloted a project May-July 2012 to establish mediators, mediation trainers, and community dialogues in South Belize City, at the request of the government organization RESTORE Belize.  The pilot pursued three objectives: 1) Increase local capacity to reduce gang violence; 2) Strengthen community resilience by linking civil society and leaders; 3) Develop CSO tools for reducing conflict in the context of gang warfare.  Longer term, the goal is to reduce gang presence and thus vulnerability to Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs).  This report measures early outcomes one month after the engagement, sets a baseline for further results, and recommends actions to achieve impact and sustainability.

Key Findings

1.     

Mediation is having significant effects, is socializing well, and shows promise for expansion.  Mediators and disputants rate mediation as “very strongly effective” in general and “effective” with gangs.  Nearly all non-gang mediations, and most gang mediations, produce lasting agreements.  Most agreements prevent violence, especially in gang mediation.  Mediators are unanimously “very strongly interested” in continuing, and 83 percent of disputants are interested in becoming mediators.   

2.     

Community dialogue is resonating but making slow progress.  The dialogue in St. Martin’s community has empowered dialogue participants but has not affected the broader community.  However, plans to collect data on the community and elect officers should lead to activities with broader impact in coming months.  No other communities have established community dialogues, but broad interest and some preliminary action among mediators indicate the concept has gained traction.

3.     

Indications are mostly positive for sustained mediation and community dialogue.  Sustainability requires broad local ownership, and multiple institutions developed interest in mediation, forming a nascent network for mediation and community dialogue.  Trainers plan to train staff and peer mediators at several institutions.  Inter-institutional challenges currently limit mediator availability, but this is being addressed.  RESTORE Belize is strongly dedicated.  Though it lacks dedicated staff to manage the program and funds to expand it, it is seeking funding from private and public sources.  The prime minister’s office is confident about solving funding and inter-institutional challenges.  

4.     

This context was particularly favorable.  This context had significant advantages, including a strong local partner and strong political will from the prime minister.  Also, the Belizean gangs are small, poorly organized, and not yet dominated by TCOs, though engaged in drug trade with them.  Other contexts are likely to be more difficult, and efforts elsewhere should be tailored to these factors.

Key Challenges with Recommendations

1.     

Unresolved inter-institutional issues could undermine the program.  RESTORE Belize must complete MoU’s to ensure that agencies support the mediation program.  The prime minister’s office should create incentives for directors to support employees mediating as part of their jobs.

2.  

 Additional resources are necessary to sustain & expand the program.  RESTORE Belize should create dedicated staff positions for this program.  CSO and U.S. Embassy Belmopan should advocate for public and private resources for RESTORE Belize and the Belizean Association of Mediators.

3.     

Community dialogues have not yet reached beyond direct participants or expanded to new communities.  RESTORE Belize should clarify roles, goals and timelines with relevant partners.  RESTORE Belize should create a forum to promote community dialogue, share ideas among facilitators, and expand training, especially for potential facilitators native to target communities.

 

4.  

There is more need for gang mediation than the Conscious Youth Development Program (CYDP) can address. RESTORE Belize should develop more gang mediators, preferably civilian residents of gang-ridden neighborhoods, and encourage CYDP to train non-CYDP mediators in gang mediation.