Ladies and Gentleman, civil society representatives, Government of Mexico officials, members of the U.S. Embassy, and partners of the Culture of Lawfulness Program of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Good morning! It is my pleasure to welcome you to the “Culture of Lawfulness 2015 Grantees Meeting,” organized by INL.
In December 2008, Mexico and the United States signed the first Letter of Agreement under the Merida Initiative, opening a chapter of historic cooperation between the United States and Mexico to counter drug-fueled violence threatening citizens on both sides of the border.
Over the last six years of implementation, the Merida Initiative has created a framework for bilateral security cooperation that provides tangible support to Mexico’s security and judicial institutions and galvanizes bilateral efforts to stem the flow of illegal drugs, weapons and money.
The Merida Initiative operates under a strategic framework of four pillars, each of which advances key strategic objectives. Taken together, these objectives have helped drive the transformation of our bilateral security relationship. The Culture of Lawfulness program, which falls under “Pillar Four” of the Merida Initiative focuses on building strong and resilient communities by instilling a sense of individual and social responsibility to uphold the rule of law in Mexico, with the larger goal of reducing insecurity, crime, and corruption.
The program pursues these goals by:
1) Promoting individual and organized citizen participation,
2) Strengthening Mexican civil society engagement on rule of law issues,
3) Supporting initiatives that increase government transparency, and mechanisms that incentivize lawful behavior in government.
It is a pleasure to be among courageous civil society organizations that receive support from the Culture of Lawfulness Program and have contributed to instilling a sense of individual and collective responsibility and strengthening the rule of law in Mexico. I would like to commend the efforts of:
- Mexico Unido contra la Delincuencia;
- Centro de Estudios sobre la Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje del Derecho;
- Plan Estratégico de Juárez;
- Programa Educación en Valores;
- Ciudadanos Organizados por el Desarrollo de Comunidades;
- Fomento del Tejido Social de Ciudad Juárez.
Your efforts have had a remarkable impact in communities and institutions all across Mexico. From helping children and teenagers in Ciudad Juarez to educating indigenous populations along Mexico’s southern border, you have not only furthered the goals of the Merida Initiative by helping to build strong and resilient communities but also helped create a better Mexico.
Your work has resulted in countless achievements. Among them is the placement of citizen-run information booths in all 73 of the public prosecutor offices in the Federal District and ten public prosecutor offices in Puebla. The success of these booths reflects the powerful effects that partnerships between civil society and local governments can have upon increasing transparency and improving government services. I am pleased to note that the program has now expanded in the state of Puebla and to the state of Mexico. Worth noting are the many programs that focus on the important task of educating young people about the importance of respecting the rule of law and fostering a culture of lawfulness. Through these efforts, elementary, middle school, and university students throughout Mexico are learning about culture of lawfulness principles and becoming seeds of change within their own communities. Other notable efforts include the development of websites where citizens can report corruption, programs to instruct children and adults on the proper use of emergency and anonymous tip lines, and programs designed to monitor indicators that affect the quality of life in local communities. Each of these initiatives and many others supported by the Merida Initiative and your organizations contribute to fostering a culture of lawfulness in Mexico.
Unfortunately, corruption and acts of impunity continue as major challenges, and thus your work is essential. The success of programs like yours needs to be replicated and expanded to reach more segments of the population. We are committed to continuing our support for your important efforts and to ensuring that partnerships between civil society groups and the government continue to grow.
It is my hope that this symposium will provide you with an opportunity to discuss your programs, the difficulties that your organizations face, and what can be done to address these challenges and build upon and expand your fine work. I encourage you to continue with your efforts to foster a culture of lawfulness by promoting knowledge, changing attitudes, and developing the skills that encourage citizen participation and societal change. I thank you again for your assistance and wish you a fruitful conference.