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The Western Cape Government's New Integrated Provincial Violence Prevention Policy Framework: Successes and Challenges

In August 2013, the Western Cape Government adopted an Integrated Provincial Violence Prevention Policy Framework initiated by the provincial Department of Health in response to the unusually high incidence of, and health burden arising from, interpersonal violence. The Policy Framework encompasses a more comprehensive intersectoral approach to the prevention of violence than the traditional criminal justice and security-centred approach typically promoted in South Africa as the conventional wisdom.  It aims to bring coherence and clarity to the government's objectives in the field of violence prevention by way of a whole-of-government approach encompassing  all sectors. The Policy Framework attempts to balance short-term evidence-based interventions, such as reducing the availability and harmful use of alcohol, with longer term interventions that address complex social norms that support violence, and which are necessary to effect a fundamental and sustained reduction in violence in the next 30 years.  It is consonant with a "whole-of-society" approach current in the South African polity to policy formulation and implementation, and is underpinned by the public health-centred guidelines set out by the international Global Campaign for the Prevention of Violence. The Policy Framework supports evidence-based approaches for violence prevention and a review and consultation process aimed at aligning existing performance priorities and deliverables across departments.  One year after its adoption we review the uptake of this policy and reflect on some of its early successes as well as barriers to its implementation. We identify early resistance arising from its conflict with intra-departmental priorities, the impact of competing policies and directives, and we propose recommendations to support its uptake. This include the establishment of a surveillance site/observatory to provide evaluate effectiveness in local conditions, and a stronger oversight mechanism to improve adherence and perform stewardship and evaluative functions for funded interventions.