13 May 2009
Almost 20 years after the end of its 12-year civil war, El Salvador remains a highly polarized society. With the recent victory of FMLN in the general elections after 20 years of ARENA Government, the country is undergoing yet another crucial and challenging transition in its journey to build and consolidate a functioning democracy.
With UNDEF support, and in collaboration with UNDP, the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, FUSADES, has addressed the heart of the matter through its recently concluded project for Strengthening Dialogue and Democratic Institutions in El Salvador.
The fundamental goals of the project were to strengthen the ability of citizens to interact with their elected representatives; advance transparency and accountability in the electoral system and in the legislative process; and foster more -- and better functioning -- dialogue and consensus building for institutional reform, in a way that is more responsive to citizens’ demands. A cross-cutting objective was to advance the participation of women in the democratic process.
UNDEF Senior Adviser Annika Savill participates in report launch in San Salvador
The project’s outcome document -- Institucionalidad, Diálogo Democrático y Políticas Públicas -- was the product of a long, broad and intense consultation process engaging El Salvador’s entire political spectrum, with 90 hours of dialogue in 21 events bringing together 600 decision-makers and civil society representatives. The process demonstrated that it is possible to conduct a constructive dialogue in El Salvador, and to reach consensus, even in a highly polarized pre-electoral atmosphere. The document contains a range of recommendations for strengthening institutions and promoting dialogue, to be presented to the new Government. It concludes that El Salvador must embark on the creation of mechanisms to institutionalize dialogue, so as to facilitate the participation of civil society.
The document was launched at a closing ceremony held by FUSADES in San Salvador on 29 April, 2009. Closing remarks were delivered by UNDEF’s Senior Adviser, Annika Savill, who said, “The launch of this document comes at such a crucial time in the evolution of democracy in El Salvador. The United Nations Democracy Fund is proud to be part of it. The fundamental goals of the project go to the very heart of the mission of the United Nations Democracy Fund.
“In Central America, and in Latin America as a whole, the United Nations Democracy Fund supports projects in the vast majority of countries, large and small -- from Guatemala and Honduras next door to Argentina and Chile all the way south. We engage populations from rural to urban -- from using IT to connect Congress representatives with their voters in Peru’s remote regions of Arequipa and Piura, to training women candidates to run for City Councils in Rio de Janeiro.
“Here in El Salvador, we hope your project for Strengthening Dialogue and Democratic Institutions will eventually reach the entire country -- for the benefit of all your valiant people whose hard work, talent, enterprise and resilience have enabled them to come this far. Through this project, you are advancing the work to build democracy that first began between El Salvador and the United Nations almost 20 years ago, when the UN facilitated the accords for peace. Today, through the partnership between FUSADES and UNDP, and the respective strengths of your two entities, you have the resources to make the outcome of this project truly sustainable and enduring.
“We look forward to witnessing the results of your work in the years to come, and to following the courageous people of El Salvador on their journey -- under the incoming Government, as we did under the Administration in office today.”
Highlights of the event can be viewed on video.