What we do
Building a democratic culture is a long-term commitment. In El Salvador, a 1979-1992 civil war cast a long shadow over politics and led to entrenched polarization between parties on the left and right, while persistent poverty and corruption also fueled disillusionment among the population.
While there has been a diversification of the traditional party system, in recent years there have also been setbacks in the democratic space, including the replacement of the constitutional chamber and the independent attorney general. In addition, there has been pressure on Non-Governmental Organizations and the media, and increased tensions with the international community.
Since 2012, NIMD El Salvador has been working to strengthen the democratic culture and support democratic reforms in the country. Political impartiality is central to our work across all counties, and in El Salvador we have worked with political actors from across the political spectrum, as well as with civil society groups.
In 2014, NIMD El Salvador established its first Democracy School aimed at helping young people from across all political parties prepare for their careers. The schools have since expanded to include members of youth civil society organizations.
Each year, the school provides a rich learning environment for 30 young leaders, where students explore topics including conflict management, negotiation, dialogue, communications, political marketing, citizenship and democracy.
Students are encouraged to discuss and debate democratic culture and values, giving them the grounding to make a lasting change towards peace and democracy in their country.
Men have long dominated the political landscape in El Salvador, but we are working to change this and promote gender equality by building skills and capacity through intensive training courses for women in politics at the national and local level.
Often it is unwritten rules and practices that exclude women, so understanding the barriers to women’s participation is also important. We do this by conducting research; training parties on gender-sensitive policy and legislation; supporting the work of the Parliamentary Women’s group; and training journalists on how to avoid gender bias in their reporting.
During the 2019 election, NIMD El Salvador launched the social media campaign Más mujeres, mejor democracia ( “More women, better democracy”) aimed at highlighting the importance of women’s participation in decision-making roles and advocating for equal representation of men and women in the next cabinet.
Young people have traditionally struggled to find a voice in the political debate in El Salvador, where the same faces from long-established parties dominate the landscape. But in recent years, young people have seized the momentum, supporting pro-democracy causes and mobilizing to voice concerns about different issues affecting society.
NIMD El Salvador supports the ambitions of the country’s youth. As well as training through our Democracy Schools, we help bring diverse groups together to share their skills and knowledge, and support initiatives to further youth participation.
NIMD supported the establishment of a Parliamentary Youth Caucus in 2018, instigated by a former Democracy School student. The caucus brings together young parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to promote initiatives to benefit El Salvador’s youth. These include a law for supporting youth entrepreneurship and a bill against sexual assault against children and teenagers.
NIMD El Salvador is dedicated to ensuring that all sectors of society are empowered to make their voices heard, and we have also held dedicated training courses to build the skills of people from the disabled community.
Given the emerging role of civil society groups in El Salvador, it is essential that they have access to the people in positions of power.
NIMD El Salvador facilitates dialogue between civil society and political actors on issues related to the country’s future, including on electoral, fiscal, and environmental reforms.
The dialogue participants come from local, national and regional bodies, as well as from civil society. By bringing together people from across political divides, we have the opportunity to enhance the democratic consensus behind future reforms and make a lasting impact on the political culture of El Salvador.