The Gradual Emergence of Second Generation Security Sector Reform in El Salvador

First generation security sector reform (SSR) was implemented in El Salvador following the end of the civil war. Despite institutional reforms, Salvadoran SSR remains unfinished. Today, 12 years after the deployment of the new civilian police force, El Salvador is plagued by crime and violence. New strategies are necessary to increase the effectiveness of the security and justice sector to control crime and address insecurity, a primary objective of SSR. This paper argues that renewed SSR should address violence and crime through local initiatives that can then inform the national debate and policy-making process. In that perspective, it looks at two initiatives that were put in place in recent years to address crime and violence in El Salvador: the US Central America Regional Security Initiative and the gang truce. These efforts point to the need to rethink how security is delivered and how the state can tackle crime and violence. Most importantly, the case of El Salvador demonstrates that non-state criminal actors who play an important role in the control of communities cannot be left out of the picture when it comes to violence control and SSR. As such, donors and policy makers must rethink how to deal with those armed actors and adopt more flexible, less state-centric strategies that are more likely to bear results.

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