Salvadoran Civil Society's Proposals for Integral Cultural Transformation in El SalvadorI would like to share a published thesis written by a friend of mine, Colette Hellenkamp. Before graduating from the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica, Hellenkamp lived in El Salvador for five years, doing peace-building work in various capacities. This thesis provides an excellent snapshot and analysis of one of the most complicated phenomena in today's El Salvador. You can find the abstract below, or the document in its entirety here.
"Motivated by personal experiences with El Salvador’s culture of violence, noting a glaring disconnect between the government and civil society in their work for peace, and observing steadily increasing rates of violence in the country, the author seeks deeper understanding of this phenomenon through the eyes of civil society. Interviewing 59 members of Salvadoran civil society with a diversity of backgrounds in peace work, she asks them to explain their understandings of the country’s violence – including the variety of forms it takes, its root causes, effective approaches to violence reduction, the roles of the state and of civil society in this process, as well as which of El Salvador’s traits serve as its most advantageous assets in its work for peace. Synthesizing these concepts, the author presents a proposal for cultural transformation from the perspectives of civil society – those who possess the most intimate understanding of the country’s violence, yet whose voices have been time and again disregarded in the country’s pursuit for peace. The perspectives presented here add valuable insight to the discourse regarding peacebuilding in El Salvador. Acknowledging that the experiences and visions presented here only represent a small fraction of the realities lived in the country, this study is presented in hopes of spurring continued dialogue, collaboration and creativity in this peace process amongst all sectors of Salvadoran society. In an important post scriptum, the author addresses the gang truce enacted in El Salvador in March of 2012, as well as how this study’s proposal can be used as a framework for analysis of this important and groundbreaking negotiation process."