In May 2016, the Government of El Salvador requested United Nations support to facilitate dialogue among social and political leaders with a view to address issues of national interest. The Department of Political Affairs is now helping Salvadorans identify and promote mechanisms to facilitate dialogue and consensus in order to place El Salvador on the path of sustainable peace and development.
As part of this process, in January 2017 the Secretary-General appointed Benito Andión of Mexico as Special Envoy for a six-month period. During his tenure, the Special Envoy engaged with the main political, economic and social leaders in El Salvador to craft a dialogue proposal. In June, the Special Envoy presented the Secretary-General with his proposal for the next phase of the dialogue process. This new phase -- embodied by a “Group to Support Political Dialogue in El Salvador” convened for the first time on 7 July 2017 -- is driven by Salvadoran civil society with the aim of having an impact on policy-making and the country’s political agenda.
Ahead of the Support Group’s second meeting on 21 July 2017, we asked the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, how the UN sees the dialogue process and its current stage, what’s expected from the Group’s meeting, and what the outlook is for bringing the different sectors of Salvadoran society together.
Politically Speaking: How do you assess this new phase of the Dialogue in El Salvador and how is DPA assisting?
Jeffrey Feltman: In this new phase, launched on 7 July, the United Nations will support a group of prominent Salvadorans who will craft proposals to impact the political agenda, hence promoting political dialogue from civil society. The group comprises members of civil society, think tanks, academia, churches and the private sector.
The Department of Political Affairs has deployed a team to El Salvador that, in close coordination with the UN Country Team, supports and facilitates the works of the Group. The process is fully backed by the Government and the international community, who share the goal of facilitating agreements to address the challenges facing the country.
What’s expected from this meeting of the Group?
In the upcoming meeting, the Group will define the thematic areas in which political agreements will be sought. The Group will also agree on the composition and set-up of “thematic tables”, which will work simultaneously in the coming months. The Group will, with DPA assistance, coordinate the work of the thematic tables and present the outcomes to the key decision makers. The goal of this phase is to give voice to Salvadoran society with a view to having an impact on decision-makers, who will then be responsible for making the agreements operational.
We have to remember that the process does not aim to develop detailed technical proposals; there is already a wealth of those in El Salvador. Rather, it will advocate and have an impact on the political parties, so that they move forward toward reaching specific agreements. In the current pre-electoral environment, short-term electoral interests tend to dominate the political agenda. Salvadoran society, however, has shown strong leadership and the required maturity to lead the way in search of solutions to the challenges facing the country.
The Secretary-General has reiterated his commitment to continue supporting national efforts to reach consensus and agreements through the different available mechanisms and, in particular, he will support this phase through a specialized team.