Social Citizenship and COVID-19 in the NCCA: A Dysfunctional Relationship

How have the Northern Countries of Central America (NCCA) fulfilled Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR) in the context of the pandemic?

The answers to this question are part of a regional study conducted by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), which analyzes the NCCA’s level of compliance with ESCR in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report aims to contribute to the knowledge of the public policy areas that the NCCA should strengthen to improve the inclusion of vulnerable populations whose rights continue to be at risk, such as girls, women, indigenous and LGBTQI+ populations.

Through this research, PADF seeks to contribute to the understanding of the weight that public policies had on the agendas of the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, particularly in the areas of health, education, and poverty alleviation, as well as on national budgets to verify if these countries ensured equality, non-discrimination, and progressivism and used the maximum possible resources.

One of PADF’s main strategic commitments is to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable populations who suffer the impact of inequality and guarantee that they can exercise citizenship with the full enjoyment of their rights. Through research like this, we aim to expand understanding of these issues and help political decision-making related to ESCR.

The research reveals historic shortcomings and significant setbacks in economic, social, and cultural rights, weak institutions, and the lack of recognition of the differentiated impact on the most vulnerable groups.

For this reason, comprehensive actions are needed to combat poverty so that inequality gaps do not widen even more and generate a social protection system with quality and sustainable public policies based on a gender-differentiated approach, guaranteeing transparency and accountability.

Main Findings

Health

  • During the period of COVID-19 confinement, serious violations of the rights of girls and women were evident: Adolescent pregnancy increased by up to 79% in girls between 10 and 14 years of age.
  • There was a setback in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in terms of maternal mortality, especially for El Salvador and Honduras, which had reached their target before 2020.
  • During the first months of confinement in the three countries, there were more femicides than deaths caused by COVID-19.

Education

  • The pandemic may have triggered backsliding to learning indicators last seen in the 1960s.
  • In an intermediate period, Honduran children and adolescents lost the equivalent of one school year in learning, while Guatemala and El Salvador lost an average of 1.2 years.
  • As for the level of educational performance, Guatemala fell by 16% and Honduras by 13%. There is no data for El Salvador.

Poverty

  • Extreme poverty may have increased by as much as 6 percentage points. In none of the countries were the amounts of cash transfers sufficient.
  • Regarding poverty alleviation, the NCCA did not prioritize programs or promote institutions that would ensure sustainability.

Budgets

  • The NCCA allocated -2% of their budgets to care for vulnerable populations. 
  • Related to this issue, allocations to health budgets in 2020 were lower than those of the 2015-20 period, despite the pandemic emergency.

Transparency

  • The impact of corruption as a cross-cutting phenomenon for all three countries indicates that the NCCA did not comply with the recommendations of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to guarantee access to information, transparency, and the fight against corruption, even during a pandemic.
  • Almost all countries withheld information regarding the lethality of the virus.
  • There were no follow-up or accountability mechanisms.

Report and Resources

Executive Summary (English)

Executive Summary (Spanish)

Infographic (Spanish)

Social Citizenship and COVID-19 in the NCCA: A Dysfunctional Relationship (Spanish)

Jed Hoffman

Jared (Jed) Hoffman

Regional Director for Mexico and Central America

Email: connect@padf.org

Published on October 24, 2022.

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