Participatory Deliberative Democracy for Peace in El Salvador
Marcia D. Mundt
University of Massachusetts Boston, US
About Marcia D.
Marcia D. Mundt is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, and a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellow. Her research focuses on civil society and local government initiatives employed in postconflict contexts to promote reconciliation, economic development, and democratic transition. Committed to the promotion of social justice worldwide, she is a researcher-practitioner in international development, postconflict peacebuilding, and nonprofit management and evaluation.
Postconflict societies such as El Salvador, surpassing 25 years of relative peace since signing the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords, have employed many mechanisms to rebuild and establish lasting peace. This study explores the impacts of four types of deliberative democracy mechanisms employed in this postconflict context to build grassroots participation in public policy-making: cabildos abiertos (open town hall meetings), asociaciones de desarrollo comunitario (community development associations), presupuestos participativos (participatory budgeting), and planes estratégicos participativos (participatory strategic plans). Findings suggest that individual participation in these forms of deliberative democracy implemented in postconflict El Salvador is associated with increased trust in local government. However, participation is also associated with higher levels of direct experience with personal violence and decreased satisfaction with one’s community. Findings suggest that implementing participatory deliberative democracy mechanisms in postconflict contexts is not alone enough to address the critiques of top-down liberal peacebuilding. Participatory forums for policy-making in postwar contexts should be designed and employed with conflict dynamics in mind to foster possible positive effects of deliberative democracy while mitigating potential negative effects on peacebuilding.