Local governments and reintegration: the success of Zacatecoluca

 

In the efficient management of return processes, the Salvadoran municipality of Zacatecoluca has shown that, with a focused strategy, local governments can promote an integral reintegration of returnees and address the multiple causes of migration.

In 2015, this community of some 75 million inhabitants was the fourth most violent municipality in El Salvador. The violence and the difficulties faced by the population promoted a life project that favored irregular migration and negatively impacted the development indexes.

In 2018, Zacatecoluca occupies the tenth position among the municipalities with the highest number of returnees to El Salvador from the United States and Mexico, according to the statistics of the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration.

Despite a complex panorama, the municipality reports an improvement in the local competitiveness index and a reduction in violence by 60% according to the information registered by the Municipal Observatory for the Prevention of Violence, fed with data from the Police National Civil (PNC). This change has substantially improved the climate of citizen security and the quality of life of its residents.

How was this transformation achieved?

Zacatecoluca has launched a series of coordinated actions to improve performance in social and economic indicators, as well as a national and local strategy to improve the attention of the migrant and returnee population. This strategy consists of four elements:

  1. Preventive approach. The community has assumed the structural prevention of violence through the generation of a framework of protection, the creation of opportunities and the recovery of spaces. Some of the initiatives under this line of action include the creation of workshop schools, the promotion of projects for entrepreneurs, reintegration into the education system through flexible education modalities, the opening of youth employment offices focused on the population at risk and the promotion of artistic and cultural practices. Similarly, Zacatecoluca created a local office for victims of violence, which provides psychological services, legal advice and recreation to people who have survived sexual abuse, gender violence and domestic violence, among others.
  2. Increase in competitiveness. Zacatecoluca has also promoted an improvement in its municipal competitiveness indexes. This has been possible thanks to the development of innovative proposals that have attracted investment and improved mobility. The authorities have sought the inclusion of the rural sector and have applied the use of technologies to add value to the products of the area, but above all they have incorporated a gender and youth approach to reach the most vulnerable populations.
  3. Specific interventions for insertion of the returnee population. With the participation and cooperation of the IOM and the technical advice of the National Council for the Protection and Development of the Migrant Person and their Family (CONMIGRANTES), the creation of the first municipal office at a national level to care for the migrant and their families was initiated. The office provides services and advice on the prevention of irregular migration, assistance to returnees and links with Salvadorans abroad.
  4. Establishment of multisector alliances. The national government, international agencies, cooperation agencies, academia, the private sector and civil society organizations have provided support to the municipal office to achieve goals such as return, readmission and dignified and sustainable reintegration; capacity development and recognition of qualifications and competences; linking returnees with job opportunities and enabling spaces for coexistence.

The progress of Zacatecoluca shows the importance of local governments having a greater role in the policies of prevention and management of migration. Undoubtedly, their close relationship with people offers multiple opportunities to improve their quality of life and offer them greater protection.

 

 

Francisco Salvador Hirezi Morataya  has a PhD in General Medicine from the University of El Salvador and a postgraduate degree at the Civil Hospital of Strasbourg, in Digestive and Endocrine Surgery. In 2009 he was elected Municipal Mayor of Zacatecoluca and currently holds his fourth term as mayor of this city. He is also a member of the Association of Municipalities of Los Nonualcos. Since 2015, he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation of Municipalities of the Republic of El Salvador (COMURES), currently serving as Director of Legal Affairs.

 


7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).