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Summary: Security in the Northern Triangle

January 16, 2013

Opening Remarks:

  • Hasan Tuluy, Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, The World Bank

Speakers:

  • Josue Alvarado, President, Rio Grande Foods
  • Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, Director for Central America, The World Bank
  • Vice Minister Douglas Moreno, Ministry of Justice and Public Security, El Salvador
  • Adriana Roccaro Giamporcaro, Stakeholder Relations, The AES Corporation
  • Jason Marczak, Director of Policy, AS/COA, Senior Editor, Americas Quarterly (Moderator)

Summary

In partnership with the World Bank, this December 16 AS/COA program focused on the role of the private sector in security and violence prevention in Central America’s Northern Triangle with a focus on El Salvador. The discussion centered on why and how businesses should get involved in these efforts, and how companies can work with policymakers to achieve shared goals. The event also marked the release of an Americas Society policy brief, Security in Central America’s Northern Triangle: Violence Reduction and the Role of the Private Sector in El Salvador. The panel followed a series of public-private roundtables in El Salvador held by AS/COA in collaboration with the World Bank and funded by the Open Society Foundations.


Watch a video about private sector initiatives on violence prevention in El Salvador recorded on the sidelines of the event.

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Defining the Space for Private Sector Participation

El Salvador has seen a 40 percent drop in its homicide rate in the last year, opening up new opportunities for private sector engagement in violence prevention. Job training and employment creation remain the most important and widely recognized ways in which the private sector can be a partner to provide support for at-risk youth. The Americas Society policy brief found that some of the most successful private sector initiatives go beyond corporate social responsibility programs and benefit a company’s bottom line, ensuring the long-term sustainability of private-sector involvement. Numerous companies proved successful with these programs, including League Collegiate Wear, Rio Grande Foods, Grupo Calvo, Microsoft Corporation, and the AES Corporation.

Articulating a Framework for Crime and Violence Prevention in El Salvador

Vice Minister for Justice and Public Security Douglas Moreno explained recent shifts in the country’s violence prevention efforts since the March 2012 gang truce. When Moreno assumed his post in February 2012—a month before the truce was brokered by the Catholic Church—his priority was the ongoing gang violence that resulted in 12 to 14 homicides per day. Since the truce, the homicide rate has fallen to an average of five per day, and the number of murders fell by 2,000 from 2011 to 2012. Moreno highlighted initiatives such as the National System of Prevention program, which seeks to engage communities in security efforts and establish clear metrics to measure the success of these efforts. The government also created an employment and security program, as well as working at the municipal level to create public spaces that help make communities safer.

Learning from Successful Private Sector Engagement

Rio Grande Foods President Josue Alvarado launched a job reinsertion program that has worked with over 300 at-risk youth in his native El Salvador. Alvarado said that overcoming a community mindset against prevention proved the biggest hurdle in implementing the program. Participants receive a monthly supply of food while enrolled in the program and undergo a multifaceted process of orientation, education, and vocational training with the aim of job placement. According to Alvarado, the bias against prevention affects the willingness of companies to employ program graduates—despite a workplace survey that found that these youth could be up to 15 percent more productive than their peers.  

Adriana Roccaro of AES highlighted the unique ability of the utility company to work in partnership with the public sector on violence prevention and citizen security. As a part of AES business operations in El Salvador, the company launched publically financed projects to bring lighting to public spaces and rural communities, resulting in increased perceptions of quality of life and personal security. AES also facilitated a data exchange with the government with mapping and location technology.

Public-Private Partnership for Prevention

Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, the World Bank’s Central America director, discussed public investment in security. He pointed out that throughout the region, government expenditures on law and order overwhelmingly tilt toward crime control, while far too little is allocated to prevention. This imbalance poses a considerable obstacle for scaling up prevention efforts. Another key challenge is to increase fiscal revenues so that governments have the funds necessary to invest in prevention efforts. Nevertheless, considerable opportunity exists for greater collaboration on a range of knowledge-sharing efforts, Jaramillo said.

Among the panelists, a consensus emerged around the potential for private-sector involvement in strengthening citizen security. The speakers outlined guidelines for successful initiatives, which are contextually oriented, integrated into business operations, and in partnership with local stakeholders in the government or community. The policy brief serves to document the best practices of the private sector in the security realm as well as to learn from unsuccessful initiatives.