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Protecting people in the context of organized criminal violence: The case of Mexico (PROMEX)

From September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2025
Funding programme: Proyectos I+D Generación del conocimiento

Grant number: PID2020-115145GA-I00

PROMEX aims to serve as the first building block in a research agenda on the protection of populations at risk in contexts of organized criminal violence. The project seeks to understand how protection is understood and practised by different actors (domestic state institutions, international humanitarian agencies, and directly-affected individuals and communities themselves) in the context of criminal violence in Mexico. It further seeks to explain the extent to which, and the ways in which, the characteristics that distinguish criminal violence from civil war -and the fact that it is not formally classified as war- affect protection efforts.

While there are established bodies of literature on the protection of civilians in non-international armed conflict/civil war, and on the nature of criminal violence and how it differs from civil wars, the question of how different actors work to protect populations at risk in contexts of criminal violence has been largely neglected. We can expect protection to look different in the context of criminal violence for two main reasons. First, recent scholarship has highlighted ways in which the dynamics of criminal violence differ from the dynamics of civil war violence dynamics which are likely to affect both the threats people face and the capacity of different actors to respond to those threats. Second, whether or not a situation is seen and legally classified as an armed conflict has implications for which legal and normative frameworks can be applied by state authorities, and for what kind of mandates international institutions have to respond.

Understanding the protection strategies of different actors in the context of criminal violence is important by virtue of the scale of such violence worldwide, and the threat it poses to individuals and communities. Through in-depth fieldwork and survey research in Mexico, we will not only generate context-specific knowledge and understanding, but also assess how well what we know about (self-)protection in civil wars travels to contexts of criminal violence. In doing so, we build on and extend a new wave of scholarship that analyses the similarities and differences between different types of political violence, and particularly between civil wars and criminal violence. PRO-MEX additionally engages with a range of wider scholarshipon state-society relations in violent democracies, on norm implementation and contestation, and on the changing nature of international humanitarianism.

External Contributors

Funding institutions