Interpeace's project in El Salvador receives Government support

The Salvadorian Government is actively participating in the project Comprehensive initiatives to prevent violence in El Salvador, carried out by Interpeace in this country, providing political support and technical training to at-risk youth who are in the process of developing their own productive enterprises, as a way to improve their living conditions. Likewise, as part of Interpeace’s project in El Salvador, police officers, assigned to the beneficiary municipalities, will receive training on conflict transformation and peace culture. So far, the Ministries of Interior and Territorial Development, Justice and Public Security, Agriculture and Livestock, and Labor and Social Welfare, have been directly involved with Interpeace’s project, which is also aligned with the Government's programme: Plan El Salvador Seguro -PESS-, as it is also working in matters of prevention.

L' Ministry of Interior and Territorial Development, have collaborated since the beginning of the project, by jointly defining the municipalities that would participate. In addition, they have supported the visibility and convening of the municipalities, for the management of the project. Within the framework of the PESS, the Ministry of Justice and Security, is coordinating the development of training sessions for the National Civil Police in the subject of peace culture, with the objective of raising awareness about alternative methods of conflict transformation, so that in this way, they can interact with the population in non-repressive ways. Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock initiated the implementation of training and technical support processes of the enterprises defined by the young participants. And finally, the Ministry of Labor, is providing training for the development of the business plans of these enterprises, to ensure that they will be carried out appropriately and achieve the results that the young participants have projected.

Workshop in Ilopango. Photo credit: Interpeace

The interaction between social actors is decisive for peacebuilding   

With the financial support of the European Union, Interpeace has been implementing the project Comprehensive initiatives to prevent violence in El Salvador, which is being carried out in 10 municipalities with high rates of homicidal violence. The project’s objective is to generate productive opportunities for young people with the aim to favor local entrepreneurship through actions that result in the reduction of social risk to which they are exposed to by living in contexts of violence and crime.

For Interpeace, peacebuilding is only possible through the interaction between the different levels that make up a society, which is why, at the same time, the project contributes to the prevention of violence through participatory processes in three levels: community, local authorities and the National Government. At the community level, the project provides opportunities to at-risk youth, by supporting the development of entrepreneurships. At the level of local authorities, the project is developing a participatory model of violence prevention with a focus on peace culture, recognizing that inter-municipal coordination is essential to multiply the impact of their actions. And at the level of the National Government, the project is helping develop a relationship between local and national authorities, in the creation of joint actions on prevention, through its different units and according to their respective mandates.

Training as a tool for change

In the first stage of the project, the young participants received a training on conflict transformation, violence prevention and peace culture, and subsequently initiated the process of structuring their entrepreneurship proposals, which they have been perfecting in order to start their technical training to formalize their business plans.

As a sign of the commitment made by the National Government, there have been meetings with representatives of the ministries with the objective to coordinate the actions to be developed within the project and the scope of each collaboration. In addition, letters of understanding were signed, which reflect the details of each collaboration, both with the municipalities and the National Government.

Juan Barrera Salinas, the dispatch adviser to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, visited the project, in the municipalities of Zacatecoluca, San Vicente, Ilopango, Quezaltepeque and Nueva Concepción, with the technical team who will be responsible for the implementation of the training processes.

On this occasion, young people were able to present their entrepreneurship projects, clarify concerns and, the ministry team was able to interact with the participants and highlight the need to continue supporting projects that generate productive and work opportunities to improve living conditions and reduce the risk factors to which this population is exposed to.

Workshop in Nueva Concepción. Photo credit: Interpeace

Re-conceptualization of violence in the Northern Triangle

L' Heinrich Böll Foundation has formed the Network of Civil Society Organizations of the Northern Triangle of Central America, as a space for analysis, reflection and contribution among organizations in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, with specialized knowledge on the issue of violence and insecurity in the region.

The book "Re-conceptualization of violence in the Northern Triangle" was written to challenge traditional approaches with which the problem of violence is tackled. In this document, the Network helps to re-interpret and re-dimension the issues of violence. Otto Argueta from Interpeace, writes about the: Transformations of gangs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The Network is made up of Interpeace, Interpeace’s Regional Office for Latin America, Myrna Mack Foundation, Cooperativa Otra R.L., Plaza Pública, IUDPAS-UNAH, IUDOP-UCA et un CIPRODEH.

Fostering local entrepreneurship as a violence prevention method in El Salvador

Violence and crime have a direct relationship with the limitations caused by socio-economic inequality, exclusion and weak public institutions. When large groups of society cannot find employment and educational opportunities, which are necessary to ensure an income for the survival of their family, then other forms of income generation begin to gain strength. In that sense, illegal economy is the link that explains the relationship between inequality and crime. Not all expressions of an illegal economy thrive on violent actions, but it does create the necessary conditions for violence to take on a regulatory role of competition between groups, which causes the detriment of peaceful community relations. The expansion of an illegal economy is also related to the lack of productive alternatives. In societies where the economy is in crisis, migration becomes another social strategy in the search for economic resources. According to the World Bank estimates, El Salvador receives about 4 billion annually in remittances, which represents 17% of their GDP.

In El Salvador, massive migration and the expansion of the illegal economy, have been the principle effects of an economic situation, which as time goes by reduces productive and employment options for the most socially and economically vulnerable young people.

Zacatecoluca, El Salvador. Photo credit: Interpeace

To Interpeace, reducing violence has to do with overcoming the structural deficits that generate a context of violence and criminality, which means generating productive opportunities for young people so that they can therefore reduce social risks they face every day. Risk and vulnerability is not something that exists in young people, but in their social and economic environment.

Through the project “Comprehensive initiatives to prevent violence in El Salvador,” Interpeace seeks to support local entrepreneurship as the most efficient way to create opportunities for social and economic development. When these opportunities are inclusive, then they are the most powerful way to prevent violence. This project, financed by the European Union and implemented by Interpeace’s Regional Office for Latin America in 10 districts in the country, involves at risk youth between the ages of 18 and 29 and provides workshops for young men and women in methods and skills to transform conflicts in non-violent ways, as well as offering productive training for entrepreneurship to promote the creation of productive associations, through seed capital.

Workshop at San Vicente, El Salvador. Photo credit: Interpeace.

The first workshops took place in the districts of Nueva Concepción and Ilopango in July. In October, three other districts joined the programme: San Vicente, Zacatecoluca y Quezaltepeque. The workshops that took place were about conflict transformation, violence prevention and promoting a culture of peace. At the end of the course, tests were provided to the participants to evaluate their learning level. Moreover, the young men and women defined the entrepreneurships they want to set in course in their communities. In Ilopango and Nueva Concepción, cheese will be developed by the participants; in Zacatecoluca, small chicken farms will be established and together will form a single venture; in San Vicente, participants will work on processing sweet potato as raw material for the production of food products and in Quezaltepeque, the cultivation of chile will take place. Additionally, in Ciudad Delgado, the workshops have begun and in the following months, participants will start the process of identification and selection of their entrepreneurship.

Interpeace’s Regional Office for Latin America is also working with political, local and national institutions, as well as with the private sector of El Salvador, to promote a culture of peace in the country and shorten the distance between different sectors of society. Programme officials have met with the delegation of the National Police force of Soyapango and Ilopango, in order to create inclusive strategies for all levels of Salvadoran society to prevent violence and promote entrepreneurship among young people. Therefore, as part of the project, members of the National Police of El Salvador will receive training in the districts where the project is being developed.

Workshop at Zacatecoluca, El Salvador. Photo credit: Interpeace.

Entrepreneurship and productive capacity-building with at-risk youth in El Salvador

The districts of Nueva Concepción and Ilopango share two particular characteristics. Both towns are located in the midst of breathtaking water landscapes: the Lempa River and the Ilopango Lake. And although they are surrounded by peaceful scenarios, both Nueva Concepción and Ilopango, are located in one of the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world: El Salvador.

In 2015, homicide rates in El Salvador reached a historic high for the post-war period, of 116 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. In this context, Interpeace’s programme is working to strengthen the capacities of people involved and affected by this conflict, in order for them to define the problem, and gain a sense of responsibility and ownership of the solutions that can generate peaceful transformations in their communities. Interpeace firmly believes that this objective can only be reached through the inclusion of all social groups, not only governments and political elites, but also through the participation of civil society.

Interpeace’s programme, entitled “Comprehensive initiatives to prevent violence in El Salvador,” developed with the support of the European Union, is being implemented in ten districts throughout the country. The project seeks to work with at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 29, with the objective to build capacities for entrepreneurial activities. This programme entails three specific steps: the first is to provide young adults with the necessary tools and methods to peacefully transform conflict. The second step, consists on training these young adults in the field of entrepreneurship. And lastly, the third step involves overseeing the establishment of productive associations and providing seed capital, specifically for materials and equipment to enable the implementation of their entrepreneurial ideas.

Ilopango, El Salvador. Photo credit: Interpeace

The programme is already underway and throughout July 2016, two workshops were developed focusing on the second step of the project. On July 14, 19 young adults from the district of Ilopango participated in a training session where they identified the enterprises they would like to implement in their community. The next day on July 15, a similar workshop took place in the district of Nueva Concepción. In both towns, the risks and opportunities of each enterprise were discussed and participants engaged in recollecting information to better define the implementation of each project. It’s important to highlight that these participants will ultimately choose the enterprise they want to initiate, as a way to consolidate the local ownership of the process. During August 2016, similar workshops will take place in the other 8 districts established by the programme. At the end of this phase, these young adults will participate in training sessions, aimed at implementing their enterprises.

Offering productive opportunities to youth is a key strategy to preventing violence. Empowering youth through these processes, helps decrease their involvement in threating activities and turns them into agents of positive change within their communities.


Bridging gaps: Interpeace and the reduction of violence in El Salvador

Otto Argueta and Arnoldo Gálvez reflect on Interpeace’s contribution to the process of violence reduction in El Salvador.

20th Anniversary Journal No. 3

No. 3/September-December 2014

This is the third edition of Interpeace's Anniversary Journal produced and published by Interpeace's Latin America Office. It features an interview with Max Loria and overview of the evolution of the peacebuilding field and reflections on Interpeace's inclusive approach in El Salvador.