30 years after Peace Accords: the remaining challenges faced by Salvadoran youth through Ubuntu lens
Thirty years after the Peace Accords, the lack of peacebuilding in Salvadoran society has become a new threat to democracy. Not prioritizing bridge-building between all the affected parts of the armed conflict resulted in the perpetuation of structural injustices. Now, when the country is once again entering a new crisis characterized by the constant attack on plurality and the impossibility to establish an open dialogue, it is of uttermost importance to continue the efforts to promote a more democratic process in which human dignity becomes the center of peacebuilding. In order to do this, is necessary to recognize the importance of local actors’ role as promoters of peace. In specific, youth-focused organizations can be of great help.
The negociated end of the Salvadoran Civil War: The Chapultepec Peace Accords
Although the Peace Accords brought to an end a 12-year long war, it was only a political solution that intended to reform the Armed Forces, create the National Civil Police and demobilize the guerrilla. Also, it included the promotion of changes within the electoral system, the judicial system, the country’s approach to human rights, and the need to implement the necessary changes to improve the social and economic fields (FMLN & Government of El Salvador, 1992).
Now, after thirty years, is important to revisit how the Accords have impacted our current context and, from there, answer to the remaining challenges and opportunities that young citizens have in order to promote meaningful changes in Salvadoran society.
Nowadays, we’re facing a context in which the rule according to a higher law is no longer a reality and the line that defines the limits between the different branches of the State is not clear as it has to be (UCA El Salvador, 2022). The constant violence that impregnates daily life is dealt with by the National Civil Police and the military, whose strategies are still based on repression and the use of force, opting out of investing in programs that potentially could reintegrate those who break the law and prevent more violence.
Salvadoran judicial system doesn’t succeed in responding to the levels of crime and violence and is still in debt with the victims of the armed conflict. Not only did the Legislative Assembly promote an Amnesty Law that was removed just a few years ago, but the changes that the Peace Accords didn’t include the need to reconcile a society that had been torn apart by bringing justice to at least the cases summarized by the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador (DPLF, 2019).
What the Accords intended in terms of social and economical changes was designed in search of development, which ended up focusing on social aid programs that didn’t tackle structural issues. Moreover, the current legislature is promoting laws that limit and put taxation on international aid while, at the same time, does not accept criticism towards the changes in monetary policies (Legislative Assembly, 2021).
The former, in particular, can become an issue for organizations that depend on financial aid from other nations and institutions to be able to continue with their work within communities.
Thirty years later, what is the current challenge?
It is clear that, although the Accords brought the Armed Conflict to an end, they left out many other issues that are still affecting us. The peace that resulted from this process was negative peace, which means that even though direct violence stopped, structural violence remained (Barbosa & Magano, 2019).
Every day, we face violence, death, and the disappearance of men and women, which is often overlooked by the Government (DW, 2021). Young people are specially affected by this new conflict, so they often have to limit their activities due to the violence or opt for migrating in search of better opportunities.
The structural problems within Salvadoran society run deep, but as part of said society, it is a must to be active citizens who seek to preserve our weakened democracy. It’s undeniable that such an approach it’s a privilege in itself, but Ubuntu also reminds us of the importance of promoting a constant dialogue as part of the process of building bridges; not only does this imply removing the differences of power and status, but also allows us to see each other as equals (Abenoza & Fonseca, 2019).
To start a dialogue without judgment is imperative to start and embrace the transformations that we want to build. Not only it’s a tool to understand our differences, but also is a reflection of the human plurality (Arendt, 2009).
It’s not rare to dismiss someone’s opinion on the ongoing crisis based on the simple fact of supporting the Government or not. That’s why the promotion of programs focused on active citizenship, institutional transparency, and human rights it’s so important for young people. By bringing these types of opportunities to impoverished communites not only they are given the chance to broaden their horizons, but also they can see themselves as potential leaders.
Even though our neoliberal economy pushes us to embrace individualism, dialogue can help us to build a sense of community that’s so necessary for democracy. By understanding that our lives are intrinsically connected to others, we’ll be able to comprehend better that we’re part of a diverse community that, no matter what reality says, deserves equal rights and dignity. This is something that nowadays seems to be lost in translation.
The tendency of highlighting differences, of pointing groups as bad and others as good without any middle ground, is fairly common when discussing the ongoing issue, mostly the political ones. But by doing so, we lose the richness that human plurality has and, as consequence, we drift farther away from solving structural problems.
Although El Salvador was able to put a stop to a dark period in its history, now more than ever is essential to promote dialogue as a tool to build bridges within a fractured society in order to better understand our issues and, from there, start offering solutions that go beyond the answers needed for daily life, but to start answering as well to the bigger picture. Only then, by listening to each other, we may be able to build a new type of peace that will be accompanied by the search for social justice and equality.
Abenoza, S and Fonseca, D. (2019) What we talk about when we talk about dialogue. in “Building Bridges - Ubuntu and Servant Leadership” (pp. 121-138)
Arendt, H. (2009) La condición humana. Paidós.
DW. (2021) El Salvador busca a medio millar de personas desaparecidas. DW. https://p.dw.com/p/43gJT
Barbosa, M and Magano, F. (2019) Conflict resolution and reconciliation. in “Building Bridges - Ubuntu and Servant Leadership” (pp. 139 - 150)
Fundación para el Debido Proceso (2019, July). Tres años después de la anulación de la Ley de Amnistía en El Salvador: víctimas de la guerra derrotan nuevo intento de impunidad, aunque el peligro de retroceder continúa. Website, https://www.dplf.org/es/news/tres-anos-despues-de-la-anulacion-de-la-ley-de-amnistia-en-el-salvador-victimas-de-la-guerra
Gobierno de El Salvador and FMLN (1992). Acuerdo de Paz
Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (2022). De la esperanza a la locura. In Noticias UCA, https://noticias.uca.edu.sv/editoriales/de-la-esperanza-a-la-locura