Making a Difference in the Northern Triangle

Sep 22, 2017

Gang violence, corruption, and economic desperation have for years been driving thousands of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to seek safety and opportunity in other countries, particularly the United States. And over the past several years, many of these migrants have been unaccompanied minor children.

“Faced with unimaginable violence at the hands of ruthless gang members, debilitating poverty and hopelessness, nearly 70,000 children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala embarked upon a treacherous journey in the summer of 2014, with a goal of reaching the United States,” wrote former Mission Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, in El Salvador Larry Sacks in a recent article.

School children in Guatemala. (file USAID)
School children in Guatemala. (file USAID)

“Yet, a baseline survey in El Salvador, taken after the migration surge, indicated that 70 percent of citizens in high crime municipalities would prefer to remain in their communities than migrate.”

The United States is working in the Northern Triangle via the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America. The United States' whole-of-government strategy integrates initiatives addressing security, economic, and good governance challenges to promote a safe, democratic and prosperous region where people can build a better life. The strategy complements the Alliance for Prosperity – an initiative launched by the Presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to enhance security and promote prosperity in the region.

So for example, USAID-sponsored education programs in El Salvador's high-crime communities help keep over 100,000 youth in school and out of gangs, while increasing their chances of landing good jobs.

At the same time, USAID-supported criminal justice reforms and judicial transparency are helping to reduce corruption and impunity while increasing citizen trust in the government.

“Where we have integrated our efforts with better policing, improved education, safe parks and playgrounds, and increased job and economic opportunities, crime rates go down. People in these communities feel safer—their children play in new sports fields and parks, and businesses stay open later,” wrote Larry Sacks.

“Our support for El Salvador and Central America is making a difference that not only helps Central Americans build a better, safer life for themselves in their own countries but helps ensure our own security and prosperity as well.”