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Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano (ONC) pioneering in security issues in Mexico 

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified trends of organized crime in Central America. As a result, the exacerbated challenges allowed organized criminal groups to exploit the gaps left by governments’ reallocation of resources. Tackling such a complex problem requires the coordinated efforts of many actors, including the private sector, academia, and civil society. 
On April 27, UNODC and the Government of Mexico launched the first-ever Pilot Initiative, which brought together representatives from government, civil society, academia and the private sector to identify areas for cooperation in the context of the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) review process. One of the active participants of this initiative is the Mexico based NGO Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano (ONC), that for the last 13 years, has been doing research on security and justice issues, to help understand and provide insights about what is happening with security issues and organized crime in Mexico.  The organisation uses this information to make recommendations for better design and implementation of public policy to support the Government in understanding the best practices, the challenges and how to overcome them to make Mexico a safer place. Following their participation in the Pilot Initiative, Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano participated in the first Constructive Dialogues on Firearms and International Cooperation and Technical Assistancewhich was organised by UNODC in Vienna on 6 May 2022
This was an opportunity to meet with various stakeholders and to exchange initiatives to combat organized crime, specifically illicit firearms traffickingIn his reflection on these two initiatives, Leonel Fernandez NoveloDirector of Advocacy in Public Policy at ONC noted that working together with Mexican organizations at the national level, and with international organizations during the Constructive Dialogues in Vienna has been important to relate with other organisations and to understand the best channels to use when working with Government authorities.

"Usually, it is challenging for national organisations and NGOs to work with governments. The set of meetings initiated by UNODC in Mexico was an important step to foster the exchange among government and non-government stakeholders. It was the first time that we could openly talk about difficult subjects or express our insights and the authorities did not feel that we were attacking them, and we do not feel that they were closing doors,” says Leonel. At the first Constructive Dialogue on Firearms, Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano’s contributions focused on how particular national realities interrelate with the larger regional dynamics of transnational organized crime. 

“The first problem in Mexico is the number of firearms illegally smuggled into the country. It was particularly important for us to talk with other stakeholders about this issue and present what is happening in Mexico,”  recalls Novelo. 

Achievements and real impact 

Back in 2009 and 2010, there was no centralized measuring of crimes in Mexico, and each of the 32 states was measuring crimes differently. There were no manuals or guides on how to measure crime, and how to understand the complexity of what was going on. The Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano led the organizing and systematizing of statistics data as well as the measuring of crime rates at local and national levels. In 2015 they started measuring what is happening with crime at the local level and to understand the difference between the crime rates across 32 states and 2456 municipalities in Mexico, they started working with authorities, which became a lengthy process. As a result of their work, many local attorneys started applying standard guidelines on crime investigations and understanding how to measure crime for practical purposes. In total 17 out of 32 states in Mexico changed their systems for crime investigations.  ONC has helped many victims of crime to begin legal processes with authorities and to better understand the steps to take for access to justice. The NGO has a national network of local observatories made up of 33 organisations. 

It takes a network to defeat a network 

Leonel Fernandez Novelo stresses that there is often no feeling of community among the government representatives and that there is a lack of working together with other stakeholders. “Something really impactful happened to us was when we started working on the political part of relations between NGOs and authorities, both in the technical part with the public servants,” - says Novelo. “With time they understood that NGOs want to help them to make Mexico a better and safe place, and they stopped seeing us in a negative light. And it was insightful for us because it opened a different view on how NGOs and the Government can work together.” 
Leonel believes that working together will help to change things and counter organized crime. “We have to be a perfect network constituted by NGOs, and governments to shut down the network of organized criminal groups, he concluded.

Currently, the Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano is looking forward to participating in the Review Mechanism of UNTOC and promoting the involvement of local governments and organizations in responding to the Self-Assessment Questionnaire.

Further information

An interactive data platform to consult any kind of crime reported in Mexico

ONC Surveys

The biggest victimization survey in Mexico

ONC Publications

Visit the UNODC-Civil Society Unit’s website for training opportunities.