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El Salvador

  

El Salvador, half the size of Switzerland, is often called the Tom Thumb of Central America. With just over 7 million inhabitants, it is the most densely populated Central American country. The majority of El Salvadorans lack both drinking water and adequate health services.

34.1 per cent of the population is less than fifteen years old; young people have few if any prospects. According to the ILO four in ten children regularly carry out dangerous and unqualified work. Violence and job scarcity are the country's most often-cited problems. A third of the population has emigrated north, chiefly to the U.S.

In the elections of March 2009, after twenty years in power, the neo-liberal conservative government had to concede defeat to the former liberation movement FMLN, which has since formed a government.

 

A new beginning – hoping for decent jobs and a decent life

El Salvador's population and civil society have high expectations of the new government. However, it takes time for fundamental improvements of people's living conditions to take hold. The previous right-wing government has left a stark legacy: national agricultural production is virtually nonexistent; state debt is soaring; the state's agencies are run down. Early improvements can be seen in state schools and health services, while smallholding farmers and cooperatives have received land deeds and production subsidies. Democratisation must be pushed at all levels by means of social dialogue, negotiations and the development of common policies.


Democracy and participation

Since Solidar Switzerland started working in El Salvador over twenty years ago, it has supported social organisations as they establish themselves and their activities to demand participation, social justice, equality, decent jobs, and access to resources and services by means of "grassroots pressure". Solidar Switzerland has provided education, support to strengthen organisations, lobbying, communication and networking, as well as policy work and the promotion of women. Since the change of government, dialogue and negotiation processes have also begun at national level – slowly but surely. This means that Solidar Switzerland has expanded its programmes from community and municipal participation to include new ways of cooperating with national institutions to improve living conditions (drinking water supplies, food security, disaster prevention).

 

Working together for decent working conditions and good public services

For over twenty years now, Solidar Switzerland has been cooperating with its partners to ensure compliance with labour and union rights, in rural and urban areas, and in the formal and informal sectors. In 2002/03 the labour unions and their broad alliance prevented the privatisation of the public health sector. 

 

 Solidar Switzerland's focal points are:  

  • Democracy for all and participation of historically marginalised segments of the population in political and societal issues;
  • Labour and trade unions – decent jobs for all; the right to unionise; compliance with labour laws; creation of jobs;
  • Humanitarian aid – post-disaster emergency aid in cooperation with the SLA's partner organisations; reconstruction projects that favour sustainable development.

    Anja Ibkendanz is Solidar Switzerland's desk officer for El Salvador.