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Democracy and political stability are closely associated with maintaining peace and preventing the eruption of violent conflict. The demise of countries is linked to the application of non-democratic tactics, which marginalizes groups of people and contributes to the inequitable distribution of resources. Non-transparent parties withhold or alter information on basic rights to benefit determined leaders, in the process breaching human rights laws. Corruption, extortion and abuse are woven into the fabric of most political systems, signalling State failure. The greatest misappropriations, however, occur in areas in which the Government feels no accountability towards its subjects. Without established social safety nets, the struggle for survival may turn dangerous as people set out on desperate searches for food, risking their lives in the process, as exemplified in Sudan. This type of situation is generally reflected in low standards of living and in both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Signs of State failure and high levels of tension may be seen in indicators such as high mortality and low life expectancy rates, destruction of the environment, and “brain drain” (or capital flight). Some Governments, fearing an intensification of violence, establish formal or informal safety nets to meet the immediate needs of the populace. Injustice and the lack of transparency in local and national governments create an environment in which corruption, covert markets and crime can take root and flourish. Youth often receive severe penalties for petty infractions, and no measures exist to challenge inappropriate judicial decisions, resulting in the marginalization of these young people. Mistrust is bred if neither the legal nor the traditional justice system can offer adequate means of settling disputes, making extrajudicial violence easier, as in the case of Colombia, where drug organizations illicitly control some security and justice officials to help protect their business interests. Social learning processes, especially ideologies and cultural norms, underpin much of the violence. One way oppressive regimes seek to gain advantage is through the media, often controlled or threatened by the dominant political faction. Such regimes use mass communications to spread propaganda and divert attention away from outstanding issues. Leaders use emotional appeals—placed within religious, cultural and political contexts—to mobilize people; youth are targeted in particular, as they are more susceptible to ideological messages. Young people are especially vulnerable because they lack the necessary skills to communicate through non-violence. The media also transmit negative models that young people imitate. As studies show in Latin America and West Africa, perpetrators look up to gunfighters as their role models and mimic their behavior because they can relate to the characters’ convictions and portrayed emotions of an outcast.

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