Presentation of the Study “Strengthening Evidence-based Policy-making on Security and Justice in Mexico”


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Mexico D.F., Thursday 1st November 2012

(As prepared for delivery)


Ministers Ferrari and Vega, Ladies and Gentlemen:


It is with great pleasure that I share with you today some of the key findings and recommendations from the OECD’s new report on strengthening evidence on security and justice in Mexico. When we received your request to carry out this work, we were very honoured to partner with you to take a closer look at an issue which weights so heavily on the minds of Mexicans.


I do not have to tell you about the prominence of this issue in Mexico’s policy agenda today. President Calderón’s administration has been committed to strengthening the rule of law and fighting crime and, as you know, President-elect Peña Nieto has featured security as his first priority and has reflected this in concrete targets.


Indeed, the Mexican government has an explicit mandate from citizens to meet this issue head-on. According to the annual Latinobarómetro survey, crime and security are rated as the most important concern of Mexican citizens, even ahead of other pressing socio-economic challenges like unemployment and poverty. Other surveys can help understand why this is the case: according to INEGI’s ENVIPE survey, on average 68% of Mexicans reported feeling unsafe in their region. Trust in local police, judges and public prosecutors doesn’t exceed 40%, with a discouraging downward trend in recent years. In the OECD’s Better Life Index, a measure of citizens’ quality of life, Mexico ranks last amongst other member countries in the security component.


And while the impacts of crime on well-being and social cohesion are very real; so too are the consequences on economic growth and competitiveness. Threats to the integrity of persons and property increase the costs of business and the perceived risk of investments. Corrupt or prolonged justice proceedings can further shake investor confidence. Our collaboration with IMCO in the preparation of this study has helped to understand the connection between security and competitiveness, both for Mexico internationally and for the Mexican states.


The collaboration between Economía and Gobernación in supporting this study is a reflection of how far security and justice is becoming a prominent issue for public policies in Mexico. Security is seen no longer as a concern for the police and judges but as a matter for public policy as a whole. Crime has strong links with broader socio-economic objectives, and convenes a wide range of institutions across government and across the territory.


Our study offers a framework to treat security and justice as a central concern of public policy. This framework suggests that good policies need to rely on data, to turn data into evidence that can feed policy decisions, that evidence should help mobilize the resources of the state and society and should also provide the basis for accountability to citizens.


This is partly reflected in the Mexican experience of the last few years. Mexican institutions have devoted great efforts at improving reliability and comparability of crime-related data, and Mexico has arguably become the faster country in the world in stepping up means to measure crime and disseminate knowledge about it.


This has led to concrete progress in a number of dimensions, including the recognition of INEGI as the leader of a national system of crime data collection; a progressive improvement in quality and comparability of administrative registries at the local and state levels; and a high quality Public Security Census collecting the most complete information about the sector resources in all the levels and sectors of government. Mexico has also developed one of the most advanced and complete victimization surveys in the world, ENVIPE, and is leading the efforts at standardizing crime statistics in Latin America and the Caribbean.


But, as usual, more can be done in using evidence to support the design and implementation of policies to fight crime and imposing the rule of law in Mexico. This is true not only for the Federal Government but also for states and municipalities.


In fact, our study shows that crime is extremely territorial in Mexico, even more so than in other countries of the OECD. While Mexico is the member country with the highest national murder rate, it is also the country with the widest regional disparities in murders. In 2009, the murder rate of the state of Chihuahua was 56 times higher than in the state of Yucatan. Baja California had a rate of crime against property almost three times higher than the national value, while Campeche had a rate five times smaller. These territorial differences are also reflected in the association between crime and socio-economic variables, like youth unemployment.


This means that security and justice policies must be both horizontal --addressing the multiple and root causes of crime-- and “local” -tailored to the specificities of the territory. This lesson extends to policy implementation: multi-level governance is important not only because states have wide powers in the organization of police and courts of law, but also because the alignment of policy objectives across levels of government is essential to increase their effectiveness.


Finally, I cannot end without sharing another key finding of our report; and that is the need for further efforts in the development of comparative evidence in the area of justice. Significant reforms started in 2008 to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system in this country. The report stresses that “that which gets measured, gets managed”, and thus we cannot stress enough the importance of developing further data and evidence in this sector to help press on with these reforms and monitor their progress.


These advancements in the understanding of security and justice as a policy domain, on the use of evidence for policy making and implementation, and on the territorial dimension of crime indeed warrant the attention of other OECD countries. I congratulate the Mexican authorities for sharing their experience and advancing our knowledge.


I also applaud their willingness to continue learning and identify areas for improvement. In this regard, the study offers some recommendations that may be useful: the need to improve regional data on security and justice sector efficiency; to assess the use of evidence in designing and implementing public policies; and to develop standardised indicators to benchmark the performance and progress of states. The individual state factsheets, produced jointly as part of this study by the OECD and IMCO, provide a first step towards reaching a consensus on indicators for benchmarking state performance.


We should never underestimate crime. Crime is multifaceted, smart and agile. To combat crime, governments need to be even more multidisciplinary, coordinated, smart, informed and agile. The OECD looks forward to continue working with and learning from Mexico on how to do so.




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