By Saskia van Drunen
In May 2012, Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services (FSAS) prepared and facilitated a three days’ workshop for the steering committees of two coalitions supported by the ICCO Regional Office in Central America, the coalition Centro América Democrática (CAD) and the Programa Seguridad Juvenil (PSJ). CAD’s overall objective is to contribute to the full respect and defense of human rights in Central America, through the construction of citizenship and of a democratic, decentralised state that operates according to the rule of law. It proposes to do so through the promotion and strengthening of a culture of rights in the region, and through the building of citizenship, so that citizens can fully participate in local, national and regional political decision making. The focus lies on those groups in Central American society that are most excluded from decision making processes and most vulnerable to rights violations. The second coalition, PSJ, works on Juvenile Security in the region. It aims at improved political, social and economic participation and inclusion of youth in Central America, particularly of marginalised youth.
The purpose of the workshop was to do a shared analysis of the structural causes of the lack of security and of citizens’ participation in the regional context of Central America, using the methodology synthesised in the document ‘Facilitating a shared political context analysis’ (for more information on how the guide was developed, see the blog ‘Developing a guide for the facilitation of a shared political context analysis’). The workshop was to contribute to a broader process of either formulation or reformulation of strategic plans of both coalitions. It should generate input for further context analysis and strategy formulation, familiarise the participants with tools and concepts on how to analyse the context from a political perspective, and stimulate exchange between the two coalitions, helping to find a common ground and to identify points of synergy.
The analysis made in the workshop focused on those groups and individuals most affected by the lack of security and of political participation at the regional level of Central America. It also took as a starting point that an analysis of the structural causes of rights violations and disempowerment should not only look at formal institutions (laws, official policies, administrative procedures), but also at informal institutions such as clientelism, gender relations, corruption etc.; and should not only look at visible powers, but also analyse those that are hidden, or even invisible and internalised by disempowered groups themselves. Indeed, an important aspect of the workshop was to create awareness about the importance of taking these less obvious dimensions of the political context into account, and to offer tools for how these aspects can be analysed. The analysis itself was done through a combination of plenary sessions and working group sessions. Exchange between the two coalitions was guaranteed through the mixing up of the members of the two coalitions in the working group sessions.
Besides contributing to a shared understanding among the participants of concepts such as power, informal institutions, political spaces etcetera, and providing tools on how to analyse them, the workshop also generated concrete input for further analysis and strategising. It permitted the two coalitions to identify common target groups, and to make an in-depth analysis of one of the (various) most urgent and important issues for each one of the target groups. For each issue an analysis was made of the actors and formal and informal institutions to take into account, the beliefs, values and historical legacy influencing these actors and institutions and of relevant political spaces (closed, invited, claimed) and powers (visible, hidden, invisible). The workshop also identified knowledge gaps that exist within the group and require follow-up.