El Salvador continues to confront multiple obstacles as it strives to consolidate democratic institutions and foster democratic citizen participation. Currently, the country faces serious challenges in public security, accountability, and corruption. To successfully overcome these problems, it is necessary to strengthen the capabilities of citizens to hold public officials accountable.
Civil society groups representing a broad range of actors, have found common ground in advocacy work aimed at improving the accountability of public officials. For example, these groups have achieved meaningful results through the enactment of the Access to Public Information Act. This law came into effect in 2011 and struck down the 1993 Amnesty Law, which had served to shield former members of the military from investigation for war crimes, paving the way for major human rights cases. This work demonstrates the role Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have played in improving conditions for civic education, citizen participation, and the exercise of democracy and good governanc
Despite these efforts, and their achievements thus far, there is still much to be done to encourage civil society’s engagement on key issues affecting Salvadoran citizens. In this context, CLALS has agreed to provide technical and capacity-building collaboration for the Universidad del Oriente’s (UNIVO) Centro de Investigación para la Democracia (CIDEMO) in San Miguel, El Salvador. This project is the product of a cooperative agreement between UNIVO and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In the summer of 2021, AU Researchers Fulton Armstrong, Mike Danielson, and Rachel Nadelman, and former CLALS Assistant Director for Research Dennis Stinchcomb led various technical assistance trainings at UNIVO. Armstrong led a training on writing research- and analysis-based articles for CIDEMO staff, research professors, and students from UNIVO; Danielson led a training course on best practices for democracy and civil society research. Nadelman led a training course on transparency and accountability, and Stinchcomb led trainings on best practices for the protection of human research participants and U.S. immigration system and access to immigration relief for Central American migrants. In December, Ernesto Castaneda led a seminar on methods for conducting research on migration. While in San Miguel, each of these AU researchers also delivered public lectures on their areas of expertise.
CLALS Director Eric Hershberg joined CIDEMO's Advisory Committee, which advises on the analysis, discussion, and production of social science research generated by CIDEMO. In addition, the Committee provides recommendations on capacity-building for the exercise of active citizenship, contributing to the strengthening of democracy in El Salvador, with an emphasis on its eastern region.
October 4-15, 2021 | American University, Washington, DC
CLALS Director Eric Hershberg – together with Danielson, Nadelman, and Armstrong - worked with CLALS staff to develop a two-week research seminar for 10 CIDEMO researchers. The seminar provided insights into principles, theories, analytic methods, practical tools and applications to understand democratic governance and civil society. In keeping with the objectives of UNIVO’s “Democracy and Civil Society in the Eastern Region Project,” we examined the ways in which robust civil society and civic engagement can be instrumental in the establishment and consolidation of democracy and good governance, with particular emphasis on transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption efforts. In addition to examining the role of bottom-up engagement in these processes, the seminar emphasized the study of political institutions and the state in advancing accountability. The program’s objective was to enhance UNIVO’s capacity to develop a research agenda and to link its academic efforts to civil society stakeholders. The seminar achieved these objectives with a combination of assigned and recommended readings, lectures, discussions, individual and group activities, and meetings with practitioners and researchers at American University and with organizations in Washington, DC. You can view the research seminar agenda in English and Spanish to learn more.