Eight mediation centers offer a space to quell conflict in El Salvador


November 2, 2017

SAN SALVADOR — Eight Salvadoran municipalities have inaugurated conflict mediation centers, safe spaces where the minor disputes that too often escalate to violence can be peacefully resolved.

El Salvador Attorney General Sonia Cortez de Madriz formally granted accreditations to the centers – in Ahuachapán, Apopa, Colón, Ciudad Delgado, Mejicanos, Olocuilta, Santa Cruz Michapa and Zacatecoluca – in a recent ceremony.

The mediation centers are supported by the El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project, a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

USAID El Salvador Director Peter Natiello said during his remarks at the Sept. 26 event that the mediation centers will be able to cool tensions within communities before violence erupts.

“We often hear about minor disputes that regrettably end in tragedies, because a neighbor plays loud music at midnight, or a dog knocks over the neighbor’s trash and makes a mess. They’re small things, but they can lead to a quarrel,” he said. “These are the things we can manage better, and the mediation centers offer a space and a way to confront these differences.”

USAID El Salvador Director Peter Natiello delivers his remarks at an accreditation ceremony for the new mediation centers.

Investing in violence prevention

The centers will be staffed by 29 mediators, all of whom are municipal government employees who underwent 100 hours of training and earned certifications in alternative dispute resolution. They will help neighbors and family members navigate and settle the conflicts that when left unresolved can contribute to crime and violence in a community.

USAID is contributing $100,000 to the initiative. The Salvadoran attorney general’s office is investing $15,000 in training and the IRIS Foundation, an organization dedicated to nonviolent communication, is putting $25,000 toward the implementation.

The USAID-funded El Salvador Crime and Violence Prevention Project is working with 55 municipalities across El Salvador to implement violence prevention plans, with a focus on at-risk children and youth. More than 165 Outreach Centers – safe spaces for youth to play, do schoolwork, participate in trainings and workshops, and join in activities like sports teams and philharmonic orchestras – have been established across the country.

USAID El Salvador Director Peter Natiello hands an accreditation certificate to Zacatecoluca Mediation Center Coordinator Flor Cerpas.

Creative Senior Associate for Citizen Security Ben Rempell said that the conflict mediation program will give these municipalities another mechanism to prevent violence and will complement the rest of the project’s work.

“With the work of the mediators, these municipalities add one more resource to their toolbelt to prevent violence,” he said. “The mediation centers will work in tandem with the rest of the project’s interventions and activities to promote more peaceful communities.”

For the community of Zacatecoluca, the project’s initiatives, including several existing Outreach Centers, are helping residents promote security, citizen engagement, opportunities for youth and now, conflict resolution.

Municipal mediation center coordinator Flor Cerpas said in her September remarks that these efforts are helping her community take ownership of violence prevention.

“Today is the day when our work becomes official, where as a municipality we become active participants and protagonists of solutions rather than mere spectators,” she said. “Mediation is the best tool, if not the best peaceful weapon to open a window of opportunity for a culture of peace.”

Reporting by Rene Urrutia and Gaby Quiros in El Salvador.

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