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El Salvador - Overview

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El Salvador is the third largest economy in Central America, and the most densely populated, with 6.2 million mainly urban inhabitants.

In the years following the end of the civil war in 1992, El Salvador made significant democratic advances, including successive free and fair elections.  The democratic transition has been accompanied by significant social and economic progress, including reduced infant mortality and improved literacy. 

Despite these gains, El Salvador’s continued development is hampered by gang-related crime and violence and a sluggish economy.  In 2015, El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the world. The rising insecurity and lack of economic opportunity drive thousands of Salvadorans, including unaccompanied minors, to attempt to migrate to the United States, despite the known dangers of the journey. While the situation is complex, the Government of El Salvador  is taking sound measures to address the problem through a security plan (Plan El Salvador Secure) 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, proposed by the three Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) to advance prosperity, security, and governance.

USAID’s assistance program to El Salvador recognizes that the security and economic growth of the Central American region impact the U.S.  In alignment with the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America goals of prosperity, security and good governance, USAID programs support the Alliance for Prosperity and El Salvador’s security plan. Security activities help strengthen the justice system and government accountability, reduce community crime and violence, and improve education for secondary students and out-of-school youth.  Economic assistance helps create a better business environment and to increase productivity and exports, particularly for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  USAID actively builds public-private alliances with civil society, community organizations and the private business sector to sustain program efforts.


Improved Citizen Security and Rule of Law

USAID provides technical assistance to strengthen the justice system and to improve the management and investigative capacity of the Attorney General’s Office, the Public Defender, the National Civilian Police, forensic services, judges and court personnel.  Interventions help professionalize El Salvador’s civil service and enhance public confidence in the government.  Government ethics and anti-corruption programs promote greater transparency, accountability and more responsive governance.  USAID also provides support for merit-based hiring in the civil service and implementation of the Access to Information Law and a code of ethics.

USAID supports a comprehensive approach to crime and violence prevention, focusing on municipalities identified by the Salvadoran government as having high crime rates.  Activities include the establishment of municipal crime prevention councils and community outreach centers for at-risk youth. A major USAID initiative provides educational opportunities for vulnerable, disadvantaged boys and girls in lower secondary school (grades 7-9) and out-of-school youth, ages 12-24.  Interventions support the Ministry of Education expansion of the Full-Time Inclusive School that extends the school day and offers an enhanced curriculum.  USAID also provides vocational training and after-school programs.  

Expand Broad-Based Economic Growth

USAID provides assistance and training to improve municipal administration and services for local economic development. Activities support the creation of municipal competitiveness councils, municipal economic development plans, and one-stop business services windows.  At the national level, USAID provides support to the Ministry of Economy and the Salvadoran Export Promotion Agency in trade and investment facilitation. USAID also helps the Salvadoran government to modernize budget management systems and provides assistance for tax policy analysis and reform at the national and municipal levels.

USAID assistance helps SMEs in El Salvador to have greater access to business development services, increase productivity and competitiveness, and expand operations in local and export markets.   Activities establish linkages and alliances with private sector organizations to identify business opportunities for SMEs to secure sales with national and international buyers. Higher education and job training programs align workforce skills with productive sector needs and promote innovative business expansion. In particular, USAID programs help link at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 29 to improved employment opportunities.

USAID promotes the adoption of sustainable production of agricultural products to expand exports. The adoption of these practices will also help the country to mitigate the impact of global climate change.

Last updated: January 02, 2018

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