Increasing community resilience in the face of significant poverty, violence, poor governance, corruption, and climate change, all of which contribute to irregular migration.
WHY IS USAID/OTI IN CENTRAL AMERICA
Persistent instability and insecurity in Central America have significant impact on U.S. national security interests. Many Central Americans, particularly in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, suffer from crime, corruption, gang activity, and lack of opportunities, which compel them to migrate. The February 2021 Executive Order on Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration lays out a comprehensive approach to managing irregular migration flows from the region consistent with U.S. values. In May 2021, OTI initiated the Central America Regional Initiative (CARI) to support U.S. government efforts to address the root causes of irregular migration in Central America.
USAID/OTI’s ROLE IN CENTRAL AMERICA
In coordination with USAID Missions and other U.S. government agencies, CARI supports local partners in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to increase community resilience and test new approaches to strengthen systems, social networks, behaviors, and perceptions that foster a sense of rootedness and hope for the future in communities with high out-migration rates.
- El Salvador: OTI works to (1) strengthen the collective efficacy of communities to address priorities by bolstering grassroots civil society and increasing civic engagement; and (2) pilot social behavior change strategies to sensitize male passengers and bus drivers about gender-based violence on public transportation.
- Guatemala: OTI seeks to build a foundation upon which communities can organize and act on their collective priorities. The program does this by (1) strengthening community governance structures for social and economic transformation; and (2) increasing youth and women’s inclusion in community decision-making, mobilization, and development.
- Honduras: OTI helps communities mitigate the root causes of irregular migration in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula by (1) enhancing community agency to effect greater transparency, inclusivity, and quality of state, municipal, and community services; and (2) strengthening community systems of gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response.
INITIAL TARGET ISSUES & AREAS
- El Salvador: OTI is supporting communities historically controlled by gangs to reclaim public spaces, strengthen emerging leaders, establish support networks, and increase civic engagement. In La Presita I, although the community is experiencing reduced gang control, decades of violence and stigma have negatively impacted use of public spaces and community cohesion. OTI supported the community development association and a local artists’ association to install streetlights and organize public events to overcome this stigma. Over 150 people from outside the community attended the opening festival, with some crossing opposing gang lines. Since the event, taxis and delivery drivers have begun to enter the community for the first time in ten years. This has led to renewed use of public spaces and increased community pride and interest in follow-on activities to strengthen social cohesion.
- Guatemala: In underserved communities in the department of Solola, Guatemala, where access to services like potable water and employment opportunities are limited, OTI has introduced a “co-creation process” to activate community-based governance structures, build trust, and facilitate relationships among NGOs, the municipal government, and the local population. Through these local governance structures, the community of Pacamán identified local priorities, created action plans, and built advocacy skills to improve community and municipal government partnerships. Prior to the co-creation process, government presence was minimal, with little NGO or community interaction. Now, the community and NGOs are actively working with the municipal government, because, as one participant noted, “we are no longer asking for ‘favors’—the municipality has a responsibility to address problems. Before, the mayor did not answer our calls. Now he is receptive to our advocacy.”
- Honduras: OTI is training women volunteers to provide counseling to other women in their communities on basic women’s rights and services ranging from registering for child support to reporting domestic abuse. This has significantly increased women’s awareness of, and access to, GBV support services as many GBV survivors are reluctant to come forward without the support and guidance of a trusted community member. More than 1,000 GBV survivors have accessed medical, legal, or psychological services through 140 OTI-trained volunteers.