Corruption is not only a waste of public resources – it is estimated to cost as much as 5% of global GDP – but it also undermines democracy, the rule of law, and the ability of citizens to exercise their rights. On October 18th, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) held a private, virtual event titled “South-South Cooperation: Promoting Transparency and Anti-Corruption in the Northern Triangle,” which brought together key stakeholders to discuss innovative approaches to address corruption in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This event focused on the challenges and opportunities to draw from other Latin American experiences, namely those from Chile and Uruguay, to support anti-corruption and transparency measures in the three countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America. Speakers included representatives of PADF, senior government representatives from the United States, Chile, and Uruguay, and prominent civil society leaders from Northern Triangle countries.
Following introductory remarks from PADF’s Executive Director Katie Taylor, who highlighted that equitable development requires strong democratic institutions and citizen participation at all levels of government, the Executive Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Northern Triangle Task Force, Michael Camilleri, laid out the main components of the United States Government’s strategy for these countries, including addressing the “root causes” of migration into the US. Camilleri explained that USAID is leading efforts to address the development challenges in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that have undermined citizens’ confidence in their governments and driven millions of people to flee their communities and countries. He emphasized the importance of developing partnerships with governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector to effectively combat corruption.
Following Camilleri’s participation, representatives from Uruguay and Chile expressed their willingness to share lessons learned from their successful efforts to combat corruption with the countries in the Northern Triangle. Uruguayan Ambassador Andres Mernies and Mariano Berro, the Director of the Uruguayan Cooperation Agency, shared their approach to international technical cooperation across a variety of areas including the issue of transparency and ethics. In addition, Chilean Ambassador Alfonso Silva and the Director of Chile’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (AGCID), Cristián Jara, expressed their commitment to bilateral and trilateral cooperation, which has already been used by AGCID to support efforts in the region (PADF has successfully worked with the Chilean Government on anti-corruption efforts in Ecuador, an experience that can be used as a model in the future).
In the final portion of the event, PADF’s Senior Advisor, Mark Schneider, led the civil society discussion where Gabriela Castellanos, the Executive Director for the National Anti-Corruption Council in Honduras, along with Claudia Escobar, a former Guatemalan court of appeals judge and Claudia Umaña Araujo, and the President of Salvadoran non-government organization FUSADES, presented their views on the challenges that corruption has generated for their countries and emphasized the need for greater communication and collaborative action to promote transparency and open government. In addition to laying out the main challenges to address corruption in their countries, these civil society leaders stressed the value of South-South cooperation; for instance, Claudia Escobar highlighted that Chile and Uruguay transitioned from authoritarian regimes to thriving democracies in the late 20th century, and the lessons from those countries can be highly relevant for the situation in the Northern Triangle today. PADF trusts that engaging these and other stakeholders to support anti-corruption efforts in the region through South-South cooperation will provide essential inputs and expertise to support those initiatives.
Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights Director