Society, culture and memory

Project completed
Girls and boys with reading corner
Girls and boys with reading corner ©FDFA

The “Society, culture and memory” programme promotes culture and historical memory in Central America to stimulate processes leading towards more inclusive, less violent societies. Both culture and historical memory have enormous potential to help to create identities and transform societies in the Central American region, which has been characterized by inconclusive peace and democratization processes and the highest rates of violence in the world. With its long presence in the region and its impartial reputation, Switzerland is well positioned to enhance these processes

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central America
El Salvador
Culture / development awareness
Culture & recreation
Democratic participation and civil society
Education facilities and training
Media & freedom of information
01.11.2017 - 30.06.2024
CHF  6’500’000

Central America has a history marked by revolutions, revolts and ruptures, events that have left deep footprints in the social fabric. Peace processes in Guatemala (1996) and El Salvador (1992) are superficial and have fallen short in their reconciliatory intention. In Nicaragua the end of the war between contras and Sandinistas (1990) was accompanied by policies of forgiving and forgetting that did not allow an encounter with the past. Clarifying, documenting and disseminating the memories of the various protagonists is essential to understanding the present and contributing to the inconclusive processes of reconciliation and democratization in Central American societies.

Rescuing historical memory is particularly important in Nicaragua, where 40 years after the overthrow of Somoza an authoritarian system has been installed under the mantle of a popular revolution. With the repression of the April 2018 rebellion that left 325 people dead, free expression spaces have been closed. In a polarized and intimidated society, art and culture empower one of the few non-politicized spaces. From independent positions, they foster reflection and stimulate the search for non-violent solutions to overcome the crisis.

Objectives To expand the voices and spaces of civil society from the perspectives of culture and memory in order to foster reflection, dialogue and social cohesion in Nicaragua and the Central American region.
Target groups
  • Outcome 1: Emphasis on children and youth (m/f) in areas affected by the 2018 socio-political crisis in Nicaragua.
  • Outcome 2: A non-elitist culture accessible to all sectors of society is promoted.
  • Outcome 3: Societies affected by trauma arising from the internal conflicts in the social and institutional fabric of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras.
Medium-term outcomes
  • Outcome 1: A culture of peace, promoted through processes of art and culture with children and youth, fosters tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Nicaragua.
  • Outcome 2: An expanded and diversified cultural offer accessible to a broad audience promotes dialogue and freedom of expression.
  • Outcome 3: Strengthened and visible historical memory processes drive debates that influence the construction of more democratic and inclusive institutions in Central America.

Expected results:  

  • A strengthened and expanded supply of workshops, processes and activities in culture of peace for children and youth in areas affected by the conflict in Nicaragua.
  • An energized cultural agenda in Nicaragua.
  • Memories rescued and made visible through different media in Central America.
  • A regional network for historical memory formed by civil society organizations fosters mutual learning and boosts the visibility and effect of memory processes.

Results from previous phases:  

Society, culture and memory" is a new programme. In its opening phase, two national calls for cultural projects and a regional call for memory were launched under the title "Communicating memory is building citizenship". For this regional call, 29 proposals were received, and 11 projects from three countries were selected. In addition, there were four conversations in Managua on memory rescue that revealed the collective unmet need to analyse and understand the past in order to influence the present from a perspective of non-repetition. 

An assessment of the cultural sector in Nicaragua confirmed the traditional commitment of the arts and culture to social issues, human rights, gender equity and memory rescue. Because of their critical approach, independent art and culture do not receive state support. Without external support, many institutions are at risk of disappearing.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
International or foreign NGO
Private sector
United Nations Organization (UNO)
  • Foreign private sector South/East
  • Swiss Private Sector
  • United Nations Development Programme

Other partners
The Embassy of Switzerland in Guatemala has a long-term commitment to historical memory and is willing to support the holding of a 2019 Central American Memory Forum. The Swiss embassies in Guatemala and Costa Rica sit on the proposed advisory committee.
Coordination with other projects and actors

Regional Advisory Committee: Formed by representatives of the SDC Office in Honduras, the Embassies of Switzerland in Guatemala and Costa Rica, it meets annually to ensure the programme’s strategic orientation. 

Other SDC programmes: 

Regional Human Rights. The strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights System will be complemented with a regional platform to discuss memory, which will address the importance of dealing with the past to achieve the right to justice and the guarantees of non-recurrence in Central America.


  • Fondo Cultura Honduras: To explore the possibility of exchanges among cultural promoters and artists.
  • Fondo de Apoyo a Sociedad Civil: To coordinate common actions at the local level and joint learning events.
  • Other actors: Alliances with cultural centres linked to France and Spain to coordinate support for cultural promoters.
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    6’500’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    4’571’711
Project phases

Phase 1 01.11.2017 - 30.06.2024   (Completed)