On June 25th and 26th, members of EcoViva’s Staff and Board of Directors will accompany community leaders from El Salvador in meetings in Washington D.C. The delegation will meet with Congressional staff and federal agencies to discuss the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s upcoming investment in El Salvador. In these meetings, the delegation will highlight the importance of local communities taking a lead role in development and the necessity for future investments to build off the existing successful initiatives in the region.
The following article about U.S. investment in El Salvador was published in our Spring 2013 Newsletter.
By Nathan Weller, Program and Policy Director
Defining the Rules of the Road in El Salvador
For over 17 years, EcoViva and its local partners have been working together toward sustainable coastal development in El Salvador. We’ve worked closely with local organizations, especially La Coordinadora and its technical arm, the Mangrove Association, to establish a model for participatory community empowerment in over 100 rural communities in and around the Bay of Jiquilisco.
This grassroots effort has produced measurable improvements in the well-being of thousands of rural families who have benefited from programs to improve local agriculture, fisheries, disaster preparedness, youth empowerment, and ecosystem restoration. It has also produced two of the 84 current legislative representatives in El Salvador’s National Assembly, who each work to resolve pressing public security and environmental problems in one of the most violent and environmentally vulnerable countries on Earth.
Within the context of a government elected in 2009 which has given priority to rural development, our local partners are helping shape new government programs that build on their successful efforts to improve rural economies and natural resources. Today, our partner communities are working to have their voices heard and to share their model of development in Washington.
This year, discussions between the governments of El Salvador and the United States on the future of coastal areas like the Bay of Jiquilisco will come to a head. In September, the Board of Directors of the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will vote on a package of $277 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars in projects geared toward investments in infrastructure, education and incentives to involve the business sector in El Salvador’s development agenda. The package is contingent on reforms to El Salvador’s laws that will open up more sectors to foreign investment.
A new MCC compact with El Salvador would offer opportunities for private investment in the coastal zone at a scope never even dreamed of just five years ago. To date, over 60 proposals have been submitted by foreign and national investors, with a total pledged $413 million in capital toward tourism and coastal development projects. But these investments come with significant risks and responsibilities for the Salvadoran government and its people. How will these new business ventures contribute to the economic and environmental well-being of the Salvadoran population? Under what rules will they operate? And who decides which private interests participate, and which don’t?
A growing coalition of local communities, organizations, and government agencies is forming to discuss the implications of the MCC investments, and the private sector’s involvement in El Salvador’s future. At the heart of this discussion is a re-orientation of the term “economic growth”, and whether this growth can protect the vast wealth of natural resources that provide millions of dollars in economic benefit to thousands of families every day.
EcoViva will continue to be part of this discussion, and advocate both in El Salvador and in Washington DC for local communities to have a lead role in shaping development plans for the Bay of Jiquilisco. We believe that the local programs that we have invested significant resources in over nearly two decades should be recognized as important models for rural growth and sustainable development.