Interrupting Violence in Central America: Lessons from the Field


Location: C103 Hesburgh Center for International Studies

Sal Stadthagen

Salvador Stadthagen

Senior Advisor, Creative Associates International

Fueled by gangs, drugs, social inequalities, and underemployment, criminal violence in Central America has skyrocketed in the past two decades. This has, in turn, eroded trust in government and stifled economic development, thereby perpetuating violence. What can be done to interrupt this cycle?

Stadthagen will outline the roles of primary, secondary, and tertiary violence prevention and integrated programs for stemming regional criminal violence. Drawing on academic findings, he will discuss the “state of the art” in violence prevention, describing successful interventions, such as USAID’s community-based Regional Youth Alliance and Honduras Youth Alliance, crime and violence prevention projects implemented by Creative Associates, which led to the development of more than 200 outreach centers in gang-affected neighborhoods of El Salvador and Honduras.

Explaining how community-based programs can be successfully paired with family counseling and public-private partnerships to help high-risk youth to build lives outside of gangs, he will suggest paths for collaboration between practitioners and scholars in meeting the challenge of violence prevention in Central America.

Salvador Stadthagen is an international development professional with over 35 years of experience in government, international development and cooperation, and the private sector.

Now a senior advisor with Creative Associates International, Stadthagen has worked with the organization since 2008, developing deep expertise in primary, secondary, and tertiary violence prevention, including juvenile justice and social reinsertion of former gang members.

He started El Salvador’s Regional Youth Alliance—the first USAID-funded project focused exclusively on gang violence prevention—in partnership with the Secretariat for Central American Integration in 2008. In 2012, he began the Honduran Youth Alliance (Alianza Joven Honduras, or AJH). Also USAID funded, AJH worked in seven Honduran municipalities to bring violence prevention services to over 38,000 vulnerable children and youth.

Previously, he served as Nicaragua’s secretary for international cooperation and economic relations, deputy minister of foreign affairs, and ambassador to the United States and Canada and to Taiwan. Among other efforts, he led the Education for Democracy Program, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID.

Stadthagen holds an MPA from Harvard University.

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