Our work in Guatemala
NIMD’s work in Guatemala began in 2002, when we collaborated with UNDP for an 18-month multiparty dialogue programme. Since then our work has expanded to providing technical support to Congress, and promoting research and legislation to improve women’s rights.
NIMD’s first major project in Guatemala was facilitating multiparty dialogue, which we did together with UNDP, between all Guatemalan political parties over an 18-month period. This resulted in the signing of a development plan for the country called the ‘Shared National Agenda.’ This was a plan for recovery following the country’s 36-year armed conflict. Since that first project, NIMD has continued to facilitate interparty dialogue around themes of shared concern including political party reform, security, environmental governance and the inclusion in politics of underrepresented groups (such as women, young people and indigenous people).
In addition, NIMD has been working with Congress on facilitating interparty dialogue, focused on parties, electoral management, and the rules governing Congress itself. Several reforms have already passed via this dialogue process, with more on the way to the floor of government. Furthermore, NIMD works with several thematic commissions of Congress, making sure that demands and concerns of civil society organizations are known by the commissions and included in their legislative proposals. NIMD has also contributed to a law against femicide by facilitating discussions between the different political parties and between civil and political society.
As well as our dialogue support, NIMD has also provided advice and training to Congress, including a training programme for Members of Parliament and their assistants, which aims to increase the quality of legislation drafting.
As well as working with Congress and political parties at a national level, NIMD has also been running Democracy Schools for young people, with special attention for the inclusion of women and indigenous people, in order to disseminate the knowledge and skills needed to play a role in political decision-making.
Guatemala has the highest femicide rate in Latin America: between 2000 and 2012 over 5000 women were murdered. With the support of NIMD’s political analysis and technical support, the Women’s Commission worked with civil society and women’s groups in the drafting of a law against femicide. After a long and intense dialogue process, the law was approved in 2008. It contributed to sensitizing Guatemala’s political culture to this important gender issue. Additionally, NIMD has made resources available for the activities of the Women’s Commission, which aims to advance women in politics and leadership, independent of partisan ideologies.
Guatemala’s society is characterized by inequality. Even though it is classed as a low-middle income country, many live in poverty. This, together with very high crime rates and high levels of impunity, is causing a lot of (young) people to emigrate. Indigenous groups in Guatemala, who comprise a large part of the population, are particularly affected by a lack of employment opportunities and access to social services such as healthcare and education.
These are issues that need to be addressed by politicians. Yet political parties in Guatemala tend to be based on the personalities of their leaders rather than on a programme of policies. Corruption is high and transparency remains low. Politicians frequently move from one party to another, and many political parties have short life-spans. The cost of electoral campaigns is also rising significantly, meaning politics remains a game mainly for the wealthy. At the same time there is a growing popular demand for change and a growing consensus to fight against corruption; whether parties will respond to this in time is not clear.