In this video, local leaders speak out about the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s commitment to protect the Bay of Jiquilisco in El Salvador and the species that live there. Leaders who have been stewards of this precious wetland and mangrove forest will continue to champion sustainability throughout the implementation of MCC compact.
**For English Subtitles, click on the Closed Caption (CC) button at the bottom right corner**
This morning, the government of El Salvador and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency, signed a 5-year development and investment package worth a total of $365 million – $277 of which is provided by the MCC, $88.2 by the Salvadoran government. Made up primarily of U.S. taxpayer money, this investment is destined to improve coastal highways and key border crossings, increase opportunities for schooling, and help attract new private investment through regulatory reform and targeted public investment.
Historically, El Salvador’s coastal zone has long been neglected by proper public policy to drive sustainable rural growth. As such, these new investments overseen by both the U.S. and Salvadoran government will require the participation of a strong, active civil society to ensure that development enhances coastal and rural areas, and contributes to an inclusive approach to economic growth.
Over 100 organized communities in La Coordinadora del Bajo Lempa y Bahia de Jiquilisco, and La Coordinadora del Puerto Parada, have been preparing for these new coastal investments by presenting their model of rural development to government officials, and highlighting the importance of viable coastal ecosystems as the greatest driver for sustainable growth. With the help of EcoViva, local community and municipal leadership have also been learning about the upcoming MCC initiative, and communicating directly to decision makers in San Salvador and Washington about the need to put local environmental and social processes in the Bay of Jiquilisco front and center.
New, unprecedented investments in coastal El Salvador present new opportunities, but also new challenges. These challenges cannot be met without the active participation of an informed civil society. To date, our partnership has created a basis for dialogue and accountability between communities and authorities that will be crucial in the coming months, as studies are completed and aid programs along the coast begin to be implemented in 2015. This has been accomplished through the following:
- Congressional briefings in Washington and meetings with MCC decision makers to learn about the scope and scale of new investments, alongside corresponding policy reforms, and explain challenges with El Salvador’s current environmental and social policies.
- Outreach and informational meetings with local leadership and national authorities, to discuss the significance of MCC foreign aid within current local development processes.
- Oversight and analysis of policy reforms in El Salvador [MCC, Public-Private Partnerships, & seed] that inform a local coastal coalition about their potential to impact rural areas like the Bay of Jiquilisco.
- Outreach to the conservation biologist and sea turtle community, together with the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative and VIVAzul, to collect over 7,000 signatures to protect key Hawksbill habitat in the Bay of Jiquilisco from unchecked development.
- Formalize alliances with an array of specialists and institutions to improve coastal management
In following and informing local leadership, EcoViva and the communities of La Coordinadora have already realized the following outcomes for the benefit of El Salvador’s coastal areas and communities:
- Acknowledgement on the floor of the U.S. Senate of the importance of including local communities in consultation and project design.
- A formal study of the Bay of Jiquilisco’s biodiversity, and carrying capacity, to be conducted by the MCC and government of El Salvador prior to any new investments along the coast.
- A commitment from the MCC to protect critical Hawksbill nesting habitat along beaches and mangrove forests.
- Headlining a November 2013 national conference on mangrove conservation, governance, and the evolving regulatory framework.
- Advocating on behalf of El Salvador’s domestic seed breeding sector to successfully pressure the United States to de-couple free trade concerns on seed procurement from aid conditions.
- Spearheading cooperation agreements directly with the Minister of the Environment and leadership at the University of El Salvador to forward coastal conservation and governance structures—led by community leadership at La Coordinadora.
Moving forward, EcoViva and community leaders will continue strengthening their ongoing work in coastal ecosystem and water management that is already acknowledged by the MCC and Salvadoran authorities as a model for the region. This will allow communities to propose effective alternatives to coastal management that are not only considered during upcoming public consultation, but also applied as real oversight and compliance over new public and private ventures along the coast.