In El Salvador, many of the country’s most pressing problems require coordinated solutions. In the Bay of Jiquilisco, local successes in community processes are being noticed by authorities, and public institutions are looking toward community organizations for leadership. Three years ago, La Coordinadora de Puerto Parada, one of EcoViva’s partners in El Salvador, began coordinating with the National Civil Police force of El Salvador.
The National Civil Police, recognizing the organization of the communities, reached out to community leaders for support toward enforcing rules that contribute to environmental conservation and violence prevention. They began coordinating a few patrols and community events. As a result, community members began to gain a voice in local policing efforts, and the National Civil Police slowly gained their trust.
After three successful years of coordination between La Coordinadora de Puerto Parada and the National Civil Police, other area organizations were brought to the table. Some, like EcoViva, had been working with La Coordinadora de Puerto Parada for years. Seven different institutions and community organizations began talks for signing an official inter-institutional agreement and on Wednesday, June 12th, the agreement was signed.
This agreement brings together EcoViva, our partners at the Mangrove Association and La Coordinadora de Puerto Parada, the National Civil Police , OIKOS Solidarity, and the Municipal government of Usulután. Through a process of open dialogue driven by EcoViva and its partners, all of these actors have agreed to combine forces to accomplish common goals including conservation and violence prevention in the coastal province of Usulután.
Such an agreement requires a mutual understanding between the National Civil Police and rural communities, some of which have seen crime and gang-related activity slowly rise over the last several years. It represents shared goals and responsibilities toward community policing, in which both local leadership and authorities acknowledge the need for cooperation to prevent criminal activity, and foster livable communities. Acted upon, the agreement also provides the principles for a region-wide crime prevention plan, as El Salvador discusses sustainable strategies to prevent gang violence.
Under this agreement, the different organizations and community groups will meet monthly to discuss coordination and the sharing of resources to implement a comprehensive patrol and outreach plan for the Bay of Jiquilisco as well as initiatives for positive youth engagement. The agreement provides an official framework for organizations and institutions to share resources, strengths, and local knowledge in the Bay of Jiquilisco.
The communities have lead the way to a type of community policing that prioritizes local feedback- ensuring that communities are informed about police activities. This likewise helps the police respond more effectively to community needs.
In addition, the agreement symbolizes the National Civil Police’s support for the patrols and blast fishing prevention that EcoViva has been conducting in the Bay of Jiquilisco since 2009, in order to encourage sustainable fisheries management and decrease blast fishing. It will provide local wetland rangers more resources to raise awareness while decreasing blast fishing and poaching of mangrove wood.
Communities in the Bay of Jiquilisco, which have been organizing for years, continue to bring about change that is in turn changing public institutions.