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El Salvador - Overview

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El Salvador has made significant democratic advances, including successive free and fair elections, accompanied by social and economic progress.  Despite these gains, insecurity from gang-related violence and lack of economic opportunity drive thousands of Salvadorans to attempt to migrate to the United States.

The Government of El Salvador is taking measures to address the problem through a security plan that includes social services, education and economic opportunities in targeted high-crime municipalities. The security plan demonstrates the Salvadoran government’s commitments under the Alliance for Prosperity, a plan by the three Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), to advance prosperity, security, and governance to reduce irregular migration.

OUR WORK

In alignment with the U.S. Strategy for Central America to improve security, strengthen institutions and governance, and promote prosperity, USAID programs support the Alliance for Prosperity and El Salvador’s security plan to address the drivers of irregular migration. Security activities help create safe spaces within targeted communities, reduce crime and violence, and strengthen the justice system so that criminals are brought to justice. Through education, job training, and partnerships with the private sector, USAID is increasing opportunities for youth to obtain jobs and income in El Salvador. Furthermore, USAID assistance is working to improve the  investment and business climate to stimulate trade, small business growth and employment. To build El Salvador’s self-reliance, USAID helps the Salvadoran government to improve tax collection and resource utilization so that more money is available to increase security, promote economic growth, provide social services, and mitigate other factors leading to irregular migration. USAID assistance helps improve government transparency and accountability and promotes citizen oversight and monitoring of public resources to reduce opportunities for corruption. All these efforts help Salvadorans envision a brighter future in El Salvador.

IMPROVED CITIZEN SECURITY AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE

USAID is confronting the underlying causes of violence to make communities safer and provide youth with alternatives to gangs and irregular migration. USAID supports municipal crime prevention councils to create community outreach centers, reclaim public spaces, and expand after-school programs. Crime observatories that gather and analyze crime information are helping many of these municipalities to identify and address risk factors. USAID also partners with the government and private sector to increase educational opportunities for children and for out-of-school youth. In total, more than 140,000 youth in high crime municipalities are being reached through USAID activities. In addition, USAID supports the integration of law enforcement efforts with community-level prevention programs; and provides training and support to the Judiciary, Attorney General’s Office, the National Civil Police, and the Public Defender’s Office for an effective and independent justice system to protect human rights, reduce impunity, and build citizen trust. Together, these activities are helping to reduce crime and violence, a major cause of irregular migration. Between 2015 and 2017, El Salvador homicides dropped an average of 45 percent in the 50 municipalities under the Government of El Salvador’s Security Plan. Several municipalities with active USAID programs saw even higher declines. For example, in the municipality of Zacatecoluca, homicides dropped by over 66 percent from 2015 to 2017.  

INCREASED ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES

Along with violence, lack of economic opportunity and a path to long-term prosperity in El Salvador is one of the two main drivers of irregular migration. USAID is helping El Salvador increase competitiveness and boost trade to create more jobs so that people remain.  USAID assistance focuses on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as these account for about 99 percent of firms in El Salvador. A local network of small business development centers, which has become a model for the region, helps MSMEs increase sales and create new jobs, particularly for vulnerable youth. Higher education and job training programs align workforce skills with productive sector needs and promote innovative business expansion. To facilitate trade, USAID works with the Salvadoran government to streamline and improve customs procedures. USAID activities over the last five years helped MSMEs and smallholder farmers increase sales by $147 million and create over 26,500 new jobs. In addition, El Salvador was named a “Top 10 improver” in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business ranking in 2018, in part due to improvements in areas such as construction permitting, paying taxes and trading across borders.

DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE

USAID government ethics and anti-corruption programs promote greater transparency, accountability and more responsive governance.  Support for the Freedom of Information Law and the Freedom of Information Institute has resulted in unprecedented access to official documents, which has triggered investigations and prosecution for illicit enrichment by public officials, including former presidents. USAID also works with municipal governments to increase accountability and transparency and to find solutions to community grievances and improve basic services. Through  improved tax collection and more transparent budgeting, the Salvadoran government has increased revenues as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from about 15 percent ($2.6 billion) in 2009 to almost 18 percent ($4.4 billion) by the end of 2017. USAID also provides support to the Salvadoran government and civil society organizations to ensure free and fair elections. 

Last updated: August 17, 2018

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