STRUCTURE & ORGANIZATION
SAPRIN in El Salvador is a coalition of 70 major networks and organizations representing more than 500 grassroots groups that reflect a broad diversity of interests and sectors. These include: the Frente Agropecuario, comprising nine organizations representing hundreds of rural-sector cooperatives; FEASIES, a union federation representing urban workers; AMPES, which represents a large number of small and medium-size enterprises; the Red para la Infancia y la Adolescencia, a network of 32 organizations focused on the problems of children; the Consejo Nacional de Iglesias, which incorporates the country's Catholic and Protestant churches; CIPHES/ASDI/FUNSALPRODESE, a coordinating body which works with and represents 30 NGOs, as well as universities; the Unidad Ecológica de El Salvador, a national network that represents environmental groups on the committee; and the Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos, representing a growing participation of human-rights organizations in SAPRIN.
The steering committee meets biweekly and is coordinated by the lead organization. A technical committee of civil-society experts was designated by the steering committee to carry out the research.
Civil-Society Steering Committee Members:
Technical Committee Members:
Ten permanent roundtables or "mesas" were organized with the various sectors involved in SAPRIN, each of which held a workshop between November 1997 and February 1998. The objectives of these workshops were to discuss the specific problems and priorities of each sector, inform the organizations and their members about SAPs and the SAPRI process, and obtain input from them as to the impacts they have felt from those policies and the perceived causes of the problems they identified. More than 200 people participated in these workshops, the results of which were presented as contributions to the discussions at the Opening National Forum.
In addition, several hundred people from a broad range of organizations
across the country participated in an array of events from December 1997
to June 1998. This series of activities was organized to educate
civil-society organizations regarding the overall economic situation, as
well as to address specific problems in different sectors, such as poor
health-care services and child poverty.
On 27-28 August 1998, nearly 350 people attended the Opening National Forum in San Salvador. Civil-society participants included women, small farmers, business people, academics, environmentalists, human-rights activists, union members and church groups. Congressional representatives also attended. Since the Salvadoran government had unilaterally withdrawn from SAPRI earlier in the process, there was no official government representation, although some officials from the Ministry of Education did attend.
Following the opening plenary session, Forum participants divided into three groups to discuss more in depth the priority areas identified during the outreach phase: privatization of public services, labor-market flexibilization and liberalization of the financial system. A synthesis of each group discussion was presented and debated in the final plenary session. A summary of the results of discussions in all three areas was drafted to inform the research process, and a summary report on the Forum was prepared.
Based on consultations during the outreach process and discussions during the Opening National Forum, the steering and technical committees defined the research topics as:
Three primary researchers were selected by the civil-society steering committee, one to carry out the research in each of the three defined areas. Desk and field research took place from September 1998 to April 1999, and an initial draft report was presented in May.
In June 1999, three workshops were held, one addressing each of the three areas of research, to present initial findings and gather feedback and additional input. Each workshop was attended by representatives of organizations and communities affected by the particular policies under investigation. Based on the feedback in these consultations, the draft report was further revised in late 1999 and a new version was presented to the Steering Committee in February 2000.
An executive summary of the new draft of the research report was
distributed at a national seminar organized by the local SAPRIN network in
San Salvador on 2 March 2000. About 150 members of the civil-society
network attended the day-long seminar and broke into smaller groups to
discuss and give feedback on the findings of the research. Input received
from the seminar was incorporated into the final draft of the report, and
its executive summary was presented at the Second
National Forum in July.
As part of the process of consultation and feedback on the preliminary research findings, eight seminars were held from June through September of 1999 with representatives of unions, women's groups, small-enterprise associations and rural organizations. The sessions provided training on economic issues and presented initial results of the research for discussion. Comments and suggestions gathered during these sessions were incorporated into the draft research report.
The SAPRIN Steering Committee started working on a plan for the construction of alternatives in the final months of 1999. Beginning with the initial research findings, a process of consultation was begun within the broader network regarding issues on which to focus work on the development of policy options.
A workshop was held on 20 January 2000 to discuss the problem of privatization of public services and to support health-care workers in the Social Security Institute who were in the midst of a prolonged strike over recent steps in the privatization of part of the public health-care system. The civil-society network decided to focus on developing alternatives to privatization of water utilities, as legislation for the privatization process has not yet been passed. A participatory process, with an economic-literacy component, has begun to involve the civil-society network in putting forward and lobbying for concrete alternatives to the privatization of water.
Other areas in which work to develop policy options is being planned include: an alternative financial system; alternatives to labor-market flexibilization; and a proposal to strengthen small and medium-scale enterprise development. In addition to holding workshops and consultations, existing work completed by civil-society organizations in these areas will also be used to develop proposals for alternative policies. These efforts are planned to coincide with work on the construction of alternatives in three other Central American countries (Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua).
The Second National Forum was held on 13-14 July 2000 in San Salvador. Nearly 250 representatives of a wide range of civil-society organizations involved in the SAPRIN network participated in the two days of discussion on the impacts of, and alternatives to, the policies of privatization, labor-market flexibilization and financial-sector liberalization. Representatives of the SAPRIN networks in Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico, as well as a member of the SAPRIN global Secretariat, also attended the Forum.
The executive summary of the research report was presented at the Forum. The findings showed that privatization of the energy-distribution network has reduced access to the service by the rural poor and induced increases in the price of other goods and services, the production of which is dependent on the use of electricity. In general, women were found to have been the most negatively affected. At the same time, the overall savings to the state -- in terms of reduced costs and personnel -- have been minimal, and a freely competitive market has not been established in the sector.
The research on the impact of labor-market flexibilization on workers found that these policies have led to increased job insecurity and underemployment, forcing many people to seek work or supplement their income through the informal sector. They have made union organizing more difficult and created conditions in which worker rights were found to be frequently violated. In addition, these labor-market policies were found to have decreased real wages, causing more household members to seek additional sources of income and often resulting in children having to work at the expense of their education.
Finally, the study of the impact of financial-sector liberalization found that micro-, small and medium-scale enterprises have been quite negatively affected in terms of their access to credit, an effect that would have been worse had it not been for an increase in services provided through the informal financial sector. Capital has been concentrated in fewer hands, with investment oriented toward trade and services at the expense of domestic industry and agricultural production. As a result of liberalization, the financial system was found to have achieved greater administrative efficiency and profitability, while having hampered improvements in national competitiveness and long-term development by maintaining low levels of productivity and inducing greater levels of poverty.
Based on the discussions at the Forum, final changes were incorporated into the full research paper and the final report was completed in Spanish in December 2000. Summaries of the three research papers were also prepared.
Two of these summaries are also available in English.