Skip to content
December 14th, 2018
Cities • Justice

Pelotas Pact for Peace ("Pelotas Pacto Pela Paz")

In Pelotas, a city with a little more than 300,000 inhabitants in the South of Brazil, homicide rates skyrocketed between 2003 and 2015. In 2003, there were 6 murders per 100,000 residents whereas in 2015, there were 30 murders per 100,000 residents. In August 2017, the initiative Pelotas Pact for Peace was launched to put comprehensive mechanisms in place that prevent violence and crime. The Pact reduced violence and crime in Pelotas by integrating social and political forces while making use of evidence-based strategies to create a new concept of public safety. Crucial for the success of such an integrated, holistic approach was the engagement of all parts of society, such as public institutions, police forces, educational and culture associations, as well as companies and labour associations. The pact was able to restore public confidence in the municipal institutions and, through a multitude of projects, continues to prevent violence.

The initiative

The city hall developed the Pact for Peace as a new concept for public safety in 2017. By integrating Pelotas' major institutions and actors, the mind-set was shifted from a simply reactive response to a more pro-active one. Responsibility for promoting peace and fighting crime and violence is no longer just the concern of the judicial system and the police. These goals are now shared amongst a number of actors in society, including teachers in schools, social workers, and the general public; even architects and urban planners play a role in illuminating dangerous areas within the city.

The new strategy comprised five pillars, developed to reduce crime in a cross-societal collaborative effort. The five pillars were: Social prevention, technology, urbanism, administrative supervision, and law enforcement (police and justice).

  • The social prevention pillar is comprised of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies to prevent violence from an early age onwards, with special emphasis on education. By educating young people, further descent into violent behaviour is obviated.
  • Integrating technology into the Peace Pact by equipping certain areas with enhanced surveillance cameras, as well as expanded and improved surveillance techniques.
  • The urbanism pillar concerns urban development such as improved public lighting.
  • The administrative supervision pillar includes a new structure of preventive programmes, as well as new forms of collaboration between different municipal departments to enact the Pact.
  • Law enforcement bodies such as the police force and the judicial system (e.g. criminal courts and prisons) across the municipality were integrated and focused jointly on reducing homicides. [1]

Within the city, the pact stipulated numerous working groups that developed 17 different projects across the five pillars. The projects focused mainly on the factors that enabled violence by addressing long-term risks, such as exposure to violence as a teenager. The 17 projects were developed to tackle the root causes of violence, for example unemployment along with a lack of education and previous imprisonment.

The challenge

In 2003, Pelotas was a small and quiet university town in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, shielded from the harsh wave of violence that was occurring throughout Brazil. At the time, more than half of the world's 50 most dangerous cities were in Brazil. [1]

Ten years later, in line with the trend across the rest of Brazil, Pelotas experienced a drastic increase in homicides from 6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants to 30.  Over last 14 years this represents an increase in homicides by 488 percent. Due to the increased violence, 69.4 percent of all inhabitants in Pelotas were afraid of gun violence, which was most common among young people aged between 16 and 30.  Alcoholism and the consumption of illegal drugs were also widely observed in the municipality of Pelotas. 63 percent of all citizens reported that they saw minors drinking, and 67 percent admitted to the consumption of illegal drugs. [1] According to the Institute for Applied Economic Research of Brazil (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada, IPEA), Pelotas was ranked the 154 most violent city in Brazil. [2]

The existing policy framework to reduce violence mainly reactive and selective, and not based on evidence.  Regina Célia Esteves de Siqueira, president of NGO Comunitas, described the approach as “mainly the police forces trying to solve every problem in every corner of Pelotas at the same time”. Such an approach was not considered effective, as it only addressed certain forms of violence and homicides. Public institutions acted in an uncoordinated and isolated manner. [3] Civil society was rarely engaged and municipal funding was scarce due to the economic crisis that hit Brazil at the time. [2]

The public impact

As the Pact was only established a few months ago, its impact cannot be fully assessed yet in terms of reliable and stable quantitative outcomes. However, some major results can already be observed. Individual theft fell by 30 percent throughout 2018, carjacking rates declined by 17 percent, commercial robbery fell by 31 percent and burglary rate fell by 65 percent. [2]

A number of different projects have been implemented under the respective pillars so far. These include or example:

  • The municipality and Brazilian NGOs, “Comunitas“ and “Instituto Cidade Segura”, partnered with 30 companies which offered employment options for young students, sport classes and further training opportunities for the general youth in order to shield them from becoming vulnerable to the risk factors that push individuals into crime. Pelotas Mayor Paula Mascarenhas stresses the important role education plays in combating violence and crime, stating that “Schools are the biggest prevention centres for violence.” [2]
  • The project “Viva Pelotas” gave people receiving a fixed amount of money for turning in illegal firearms to any police force. This led to 185 firearms being turned in during 2018.
  • The project “Cidade Tranquila“ aimed at reducing the consumption of alcoholic beverages among Pelotas citizens by closely monitoring the consumption of alcohol between 10 p.m and 4.a.m. in public spaces through police forces.

Since the Peace Pact's implementation, 415 meetings between the planning and implementation units (i.e. the municipal secretaries and the police forces as well as commercial actors and culture associations) were held; among these 415, 12 meetings were held with the Pelotas Security Council; 10 meetings with the prevention committee; and 81 integrated operations were conducted.

Written by Julia Schnatz

Stakeholder engagement

In order to develop evidence-based strategies to combat excessive violence in Pelotas, more than 70 meetings were held to create a diagnostic assessment of the current violence occurring in Pelotas. From the outset, policy makers on municipal level stated the important role society plays in developing, monitoring and implementing the strategies to promote peace. Throughout the design of the pact, suggestions and proposals were welcomed from the people of Pelotas. [5]

Municipal consultants conducted 140 activities such as focus groups and panel discussions as well as communal information sessions to engage all relevant stakeholders, internal and external of the municipality. Internal stakeholders mainly included the local administration, such as the secretaries of education, health, sports, and culture. External stakeholders were other public institutions involved in the design of the projects such as the military and civil police forces, city guards, the university, community leaders, companies, as well as federal police. [2]

The initiators of the pact met with all stakeholders to emphasise the important role their engagement plays in the design phase of the policy. During focus groups, they discussed questions such as which projects they would like to see financed within the municipality and what existing projects that could be refined, as well as their perception of the most pressing problems in Pelotas in order to inform decisions about which projects to implement for the Pact. [4]

Political commitment

The implementation of the pact was put into legislation in November 2017 through the „Código de Convivência do Município de Pelotas“, which established norms for harmonic societal cohabitation in the municipality.

According to Paula Mascarenhas, the mayor of Pelotas, public safety is not anymore the exclusive responsibility of the government, but needs the involvement of society as a whole. Due to the negative development in Pelotas, Mascarenhas stated that restoring public safety is her priority: „Even though my predecessor realised the importance of preventing violence, I want to emphasise the importance of the civil society in combating surging homicide rates.“  [5]

The municipality funded the pact with R$ 6 million (£1.1 million) and increased the number of municipal guards by 40 percent, hiring 80 new municipal officers as well as a team to monitor and manage the pact. [6]

Public confidence

Due to the failure of the previous, reactive approach to combating violence and crime in Pelotas, the confidence of the general public in public institutions on municipal level was low. People needed to be convinced of the new concept of public safety and explained the difficulties of eradicating violence while proving that previous solutions did not eliminate the root causes of violence.

To convince society of this new concept was a good one, an effective communication strategy was undertaken. The municipality also presented concrete projects to citizens to familiarise them with the five pillars of the Pact. [7]

In order to restore public confidence in the different public actors and, ultimately, in the projects the pact foresees, the municipality of Pelotas organised community events like bicycle excursions, walks, and picnics. These were received with praise from the community and rose awareness for the Pact's objectives. [7]

When the pact was launched on 11 August 2017, more than 400 members of the civil society joined. [4] In the course of implementation, public trust in police forces and public institutions was restored due to the good results the different projects achieved in terms of reducing incidents of homicides. The transparency in the diagnostic and formulation of the Pact further enhanced public trust into public institutions. [8]

Critics, such as as Flávia Chagas, Professor at the Federal University of Pelotas claim that the Pact is “for the elite and discriminates against minorities and the youth“, [9] It is argued that young people and minorities, such as African immigrants were not engaged properly and do not benefit from the different projects that were implemented through the Pact. [9]

Clarity of objectives

The Pelotas pact for peace aims at ensuring an integrated approach to public safety while engaging civil society in a proactive way. [5] The overall goals of the pact were stated  in an official communication in November 2017 from Pelotas's mayor to the president of the municipal chamber, Luiz Henrique Cordeiro Viana [10]:

  • Spread a culture of peace
  • Promote the value of citizens from different backgrounds coexisting in Pelotas
  • Foster behaviour that prevents crime and violence
  • Stimulate occupation within the municipality
  • Promote the use of pacifist mechanisms to solve conflict
  • Define concrete measures for the police to take in order to restore public safety

The specific objectives of the Pelotas Peace Pact were stated in an official communication by the municipality published August 2017 [6].

  1. Reduce the number of homicides, assaults and robberies
  2. Reduce the number of pedestrian attacks
  3. Reduce carjacking incidents
  4. Reduce disturbance
  5. Reduce the vulnerability of the youth

Strength of evidence

Prior to implementation, local NGOs “Instituto Cidade Segura“ (ICS) and “Comunitas“ formulated evidence-based policy responses that could be implemented through the Peace Pact.  The policy research was used by the municipality of Pelotas to inform the implementation of the Peace Pact. Stakeholders' main interest was to use a science-based, proactive approach to combat violence and soaring homicide rates within the community.

The Institute of Public Opinion (Instituto Pesquisas de Opinião) conducted interviews with 1004 citizens of Pelotas and assessed their experiences of violence in order to inform authorities about unreported crimes that still have a major impact on society. They gathered evidence on risk factors that make Pelotas's citizens more prone to violence as well as plotting available data from criminal records. They also assessed the level of fear present among Pelotas's inhabitants.

Every single one of the 17 projects that was employed was based on a successful experience or a project that was already implemented in a different city. The “Instituto Cidade Segura“ drew upon best practice initiatives from around the world, such as strategies to strengthen democratic institutions in New York, Boston, Bogotá, and smaller Brazilian municipalities, to inform their suggested projects to combat violence and crime in Pelotas. [11] For example, the project “Janelas Quebradas“ under the urbanism pillar, aimed at reducing public disturbance, was based on experiences in New York during the 1990s [4]

Existing initiatives established to tackle violence from other Brazilian municipalities such as Diadema in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais were tailored to Pelotas' needs. [5]


Funding was not the primary feasibility challenge for the Pelotas Peace Pact as the institutions responsible for implementation were already in place and no new institutions or positions had to be created. However, two other feasibility challenges existed: An internal challenge of human resources and an external concerning society's involvement in the Pact's implementation.

Internally, the challenge on the municipality level to engage civil servants from different areas to work collaboratively in an integrated manner on problems. Since public servants in charge of executing the Pact's strategies and hence involved in the implementation and management of the projects come from different departments of the administration, they had to be convinced to engage in a dialogue with servants from different departments. [11] This challenge was especially pronounced when problems arose because there was a lack of coordination between different departments.

Externally, society's mind-set on how to combat violence and crime had to be changed, because they were not convinced of the new, proactive concept of tackling violence. (see Legitimacy section of this Case Study).


The pact is managed jointly by three institutions with clear mandates and management roles.

The security department (Gabinete de Gestão Integrada de Segurança, GGI) oversees the workings of police and judicial system. The department holds a meeting every 15 days in order to track the execution of the pact, gather new information and initiate joint projects. The department is responsible for the pillars technology, urbanism, law enforcement, and administrative supervision.

The municipality also created an integrated prevention committee (Comitê Integrado de Prevenção, CIP), responsible for monitoring the projects related to social prevention. The CIP meets monthly, combining different government bodies in the areas of education, health, culture, sports, and recreation. [5]

The third institution is the Municipal Safety Forum (Fórum Municipal de Segurança), which consists of 250 members from all sectors of society (trade and labour associations, sports and culture associations, religious leaders). It holds  weekly meetings to allow the public to provide input and suggestions for the further development of the policy. [11]


To measure the impact and monitor the progress of the Peace Pact, the municipality established a supervision unit called „Observatório Municipal de Segurança“. The unit monitors crime indicators such as homicide incidents and in real time through georeferenced data. The objective of the monitoring mechanisms in place is to inform any adjustments to the pact. The Observatório stated that the projects defined prior to implementation are not an end in themselves, but a measure to achieve the primary goal of preventing violence and crime that can be tailored to the Pelotas Society. [3]

Once a month, the project coordinators produce a summarising report to update all stakeholders about the status of general implementation of the specific project they are coordinating. Additionally, GGI and CIP publish a monitoring report every two months, informing the municipality about the current status of specific projects and how well they are achieving their goals. Together with the police, the Observatório publishes numbers of reported crimes at the beginning of each month in order to evaluate the impact of certain measures on crime and homicide rates. The Observatório then analyses the numbers in detail to identify the isolated positive and negative effects of each of the Pact's strategies.  [3]


While collaboration across various stakeholders within politics, administration and society was highly functioning, minor internal difficulties in the execution of the pact arose.  in engaging civil servants from different departments to work collaboratively and engage in a dialogue.

For the Pact to be successful, collaboration between numerous actors, including municipal institutions, police forces, the general public, NGOs and trade associations, was required.  For each pillar of the Pact, different actors developed their own projects to a different target group within society. The general interest in building peace within the Pelotas community was shared by all actors required to execute the pact.

To increase alignment between municipal consultants and the general public, special emphasis was put onto the integration of existing projects into the new strategies by building on existing experience within the municipality. Projects that were already in place, for example a musical education programme was integrated into the Peace Pact's strategy. This in turn enabled these existing projects to be equipped with further funding and in some cases, an extension of the project's duration besides increasing the pact's acceptance by the general public. [4] By building on existing projects and experiences certain networks and symbolic identification with certain projects could be preserved and further led to the acceptance of and collaboration in the Pact's execution.[12]

The Public Impact Fundamentals - A framework for successful policy

This case study has been assessed using the Public Impact Fundamentals, a simple framework and practical tool to help you assess your public policies and ensure the three fundamentals - Legitimacy, Policy and Action are embedded in them.

Learn more about the Fundamentals and how you can use them to access your own policies and initiatives.

Explore the Fundamentals