The Pulte Institute launches the Central American Research Alliance | News | Notre Dame News

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Demonstration in Guatemala

The Pulte Institute for Global Development – ​​part of the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame – launched the Central America Research Alliance (CARA): a network focused on delivering evidence-based advocacy evidence by amplifying the work of Central American scholars and practitioners.

Co-directed by Tom Hare and María Estela Rivero Fuentes of the Pulte Institute, and in partnership with researchers from more than a dozen Central American institutions, CARA conducts applied research to inform development policy and practice on migration, citizen security, democracy and governance, and human rights in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.

“Our goal with CARA is to learn from research and the realities of those who live in the region on a daily basis in order to put these development issues into context,” said Rivero, a senior research associate with more than 20 years of experience. experience in research and evaluation. social programs in Central America. “At CARA, we ask ourselves: How does a focus on integral human development and dignity help people thrive? How can Notre Dame – with its global expertise, world-class research resources, and access to U.S. stakeholders – create synergies that create meaningful change in these countries? By making these issues more accessible, we hope we can not only inform, but also inspire action. »

Central American Dialogues Event in 2019
Central American Dialogues Event in 2019

In April, the U.S. Department of State awarded CARA a $2 million grant to evaluate the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program in El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica. . Part of the US government Investing $411 million in citizen safety and gang reduction in the region over the past decade, GREAT is implemented by preventive policing in schools to educate them about the risks associated with delinquency and develop skills. channels of communication with young people. In conjunction with Florida International University and the University of Central America, CARA will work closely with country schools, parents, youth, and police to evaluate the effectiveness of the GREAT program and make recommendations for the future implementation of the program in the region.

Hare, a senior researcher who has lived, studied and worked in the area for the past 20 years and wrote the book Zonas Peligrosas: The Challenge of Creating Safe Neighborhoods in Central America,” leads the GREAT project team alongside Rivero and Laura Miller-Graff, Pulte Institute faculty member and associate professor of psychology and on peace.

“For decades, Central American countries have struggled with problems of youth crime and violence. Efforts to reduce gang membership range from individual termination interventions and family therapy to community building, police reform and other policy initiatives,” Hare said. “This is the first time the GREAT program will be evaluated outside of the United States, and the results of the study are likely to have major implications for how the United States supports gang and violence prevention in the region in the future.”

This award and support for academic efforts is especially important as the Biden administration grapples with how best to invest $4 billion in aid to the region, and as heightened violence and growing concerns concerning freedom of expression are devastating El Salvador.

El Salvador is not the only country in the region facing growing restrictions on democratic freedom. In Nicaragua, academia is under threat as the government closes several universities in an effort to stifle voices critical of President Daniel Ortega. In a recent op-ed for Inside Higher Education, Hare and Rivero wrote, “Far from being just another step towards the elimination of free debate, the dismantling of universities is a near fatal blow to democracy. … We must not be silent witnesses to these historic departures from free societies.

In addition to violence prevention and democracy, CARA will focus on initiatives that explore the root causes of migration. Hare and Rivero have conducted several studies and events that explore the region’s migration, including a ThinkND series focusing on realities beyond the border.

“Many factors influence migration: domestic and community violence, political unrest and access to quality jobs, to name a few. Restricting civil liberties will not make these countries safer, and the number of those who see no hope in their country’s future will undoubtedly increase,” Hare said.

CARA’s recent success is built on a foundation of strong partnerships. The 16 network partners include respected universities, research and advocacy groups, and influential government officials.

Clara Villatoro Huezo, a master’s student in global affairs at the Keough School and a former Salvadoran journalist, has worked for several years with the Pulte Institute to build partnerships in Central America. Today, she works closely with CARA partners to develop a culture of evidence that addresses systemic and cross-sectoral issues that contribute to development challenges in the region.

“The topics CARA investigates are very real issues that our partners encounter on a regular basis,” Villatoro said. “We have a unique opportunity to raise the voice of their communities so that they are heard internationally. By doing this, we hope we can begin to change minds and hearts in a way that creates tangible impact.

The CARA team will begin work on the GREAT program in early summer and plans to host an in-person meeting with regional partners in Central America this fall. To learn more about CARA’s work, visit pulte.nd.edu/CARA.

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