IRI, in partnership with the San Salvador-based Center for Political Studies, hosted a delegation of young leaders from Timor-Leste in El Salvador from November 19-29, 2007. The group, a part of IRI’s Rising Stars program, learned how El Salvador strengthened democracy and economic growth after the country’s long civil war.
The six-person delegation from Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Economic Development included delegation head Mr. Frederico Alvares Fernandes Cabral, Rural Development Lead Researcher; Mr. Leoneto Mendes Gonçalves, Rural Development Section Chief; Mr. Francisco Xavier, Rural Development Manager Cooperative Division; Mr. João Carlos Soares, Coordinator for Environmental Awareness; Ms. Josephina Antonieta da Silva, Assistant Technical Professional; and Ms. Rosita Garcia de Sousa, Assistant Administrator.
The program in El Salvador provided policymakers from Timor-Leste, which emerged from its own conflict in 1999, with an opportunity to strengthen their country’s economic and political reconstruction. “El Salvador’s post war history is very relevant for Timor-Leste and we must use their experience to benefit our country,” one delegate stated after the two week exchange, which included meetings and site visits with municipal leaders, government ministries and nongovernmental organizations.
Demonstrating their gratitude to the international community for the help El Salvador received during its difficult period, Salvadoran leaders across the country–from President Tony Saca to city council members in the smallest municipalities–pledged their solidarity with the Timorese leaders and offered to help them address the tough challenges that lie ahead for Timor-Leste.
“After our 12 year conflict, we put ourselves to work to achieve political and economic stability. And now, we can be a model for you,” El Salvador’s Vice President, Ana Vilma de Escobar, told the delegation in a two hour session during which she described the tough choices El Salvador made over the last 15 years to achieve economic growth and political reconciliation.
At the conclusion of the study tour, the delegation submitted a report to the Timor-Leste Minister of Economy, recommending local government reforms and the development of a municipal system similar to the El Salvador model.
The 10-day program is part of an innovative initiative by IRI to train young leaders from emerging democracies in countries that have undergone successful economic and political transitions.