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In focus: Melina Risso, Director of the Instituto Sou da Paz

Melina Risso, Director of the Instituto Sou da Paz, explains the organisation’s efforts in reducing armed violence in Brazil, particularly by strengthening the country’s approach towards gun control.

What is the Instituto Sou da Paz?

The Instituto Sou da Paz is a Non Government Organization with headquarters in São Paulo, that for over 10 years has been working in the prevention of violence in Brazil, in the attempt to influence public policies in this field.

Identified as being one of the greatest concerns of Brazilians, violence began to increase during the 1980’s and continued to soar in ensuing decades. Between the years 1980 and 2000, the rate of homicides increased three-fold in the country.

Although this affects people in different ways, such a phenomenon has generated a great deal of fear and insafety among the population. As a response to this, governments have primarily adopted a reactive and repressive stance, defending an increase in stringency of penalties and building prisons as the sole solution for the problem. However, such measures have not had a consequent decrease in indices.

The aim of Sou da Paz is to exert influence on the actions of the public power and the Brazilian society at large regarding the issue of violence. For this purpose, the institute focuses its work on four broad areas: Adolescence and Youth, Weapons Control, Local management of Public Safety and the Police. The work in these four areas is integrated, contemplating a diversity of strategies, among which:

  • Development of innovative projects in the sites and audiences most affected by violence, seeking effective alternatives to resolve such problems;
  • Mobilisation of society to urge it to demand results from the public power
  • Monitoring and the quest to influence public policies and important laws on the issues tied to public safety and violence prevention
  • Consultancy to governments in drafting and implementing policies geared to the prevention of violence and the promotion of public safety
  • Participation in the public debate on issues included in its working agenda.

Projects normally take place in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, and the work of mobilization and consultancy have nationwide and global breadth. To carry out its work, the Instituto Sou da Paz counts with a team of over 60 employees and dozens of volunteers.

In 2013, AOAV commended Sou da Paz’ important work and named Melina Risso, together with Luciana Guimarães, as one of the 100 most influential people in armed violence reduction.