The participatory character of Guatemalan public policies was defined many years after the introduction of democracy in the country. It was until the Constituent Assembly of 1945, which followed the Revolution of 1944, that the first step towards the development of a participatory democracy was taken; giving rise, in turn, to the so-called "golden age," which ended ten years later with the overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz.
Thereafter, the notion of participatory democracy was replaced once more by a number of laws that restricted the inclusion of certain civil society groups. In spite of the Days of March and April 1962, in which the popular and progressive university student movement rose against the military regime, these “façade democracies” were legitimized by the Constitution of 1965. Its heritage represents one of the biggest obstacles to the processes of democratization and participatory development in the Central American country.
It was not until 1985, when the process of democratization for the country began, that the principle of subsidiarity began to be seen again; the Development Council System was introduced, and a state decentralization policy was implemented (Governmental Agreement No. 15-86). This process gave political and economic autonomy to the municipalities and is, to date, one of the fundamental pillars of many democratic innovations in the country. From their process of institutionalization, initiatives of citizen participation in Guatemala emerged and began to focus mainly on the rights of indigenous peoples, on the protection of the environment, on security and, more recently, on strengthening the Rule of Law.
On the other hand, a decade later, the 1996 Peace Accords, which ended the Civil War and the Ixil Genocide, although they did not frame a new constitutional regime nor consolidate full participation of civil society - which was reflected, for example, in the high level of abstention during the constitutional referendum of 1999 (81.45%) – they did delimit the legal framework of many participatory tools that were later transformed into state policies. These policies were largely supported by the international community - especially UNDP and GIZ.
It is also worth mentioning the events of August 15, 2015, which are crucial for citizen representation movements in Guatemala. After the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina - although the political changes that were foreshadowed during the so-called "Guatemalan Spring" have not truly occurred - the obvious discontent of civil society has given rise to numerous initiatives of participation and innovation.
The support of the International Organizations is evident, above all, after the Peace Agreements, with the creation of the Intersectorial Boards in Washington and later with the establishment of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
The participatory tools that are implemented throughout the post-war years denote a strong involvement of civil society and especially of indigenous communities in the country. The vertiginous increase of the initiatives on the part of the Maya, Xinca and Garífuna peoples initiates and becomes imminent after the Constitutional Referendum of 1999 - which denied the recognition of indigenous peoples. From this, numerous initiatives of citizen participation begin to draft and propose the inclusion of an indigenous agenda in government plans; to denounce the violation of ILO Convention 169, defending the right to prior consultation through the "Consultations of Good Faith"; and to promote legal pluralism during the National Dialogue for the Reform of Justice in Guatemala.
In the environmental field, one of the most successful designs of democratic innovation has undoubtedly been the Forestry Communities, created from the community forestry concessions made by the Government. Community management promotes ecological sustainability and socioeconomic development of the multiple uses area of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the number of e-participation initiatives, in particular through the concertation and promotion of Open Government and the Internet Bill of Rights.
Guatemalan Internet Bill of Rights
The Guatemalan Internet Bill of Rights was carried out through a citizen-led participatory process in which different sectors of civil society created the first long-term agenda on digital issues in ...Read more
The Forestry Communities are rural and indigenous organizations that, through community management, promote the ecological sustainability and socioeconomic development of the Multiple Use Zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. They ...Read more
National Policy of Midwives for the Four Native Groups of Guatemala
The National Policy of Midwives for the Four Native Groups of Guatemala was created from 33 round tables in which regional representatives of midwives, state agencies, and civil society and ...Read more
Open Parliament Action Plan
The first Open Parliament Action Plan was the result of a joint effort between the Governing Board of the Guatemalan Congress and the Alliance for an Open Congress in Guatemala ...Read more
Observatory of the Criminal Justice System
The Observatory of the Criminal Justice System is a mechanism for citizen participation that was carried out with the objective of strengthening and making more transparent the Judicial Branch, guaranteeing ...Read more
Community Development Councils
The Community Development Councils are representative bodies for citizen participation through which community members promote coordination between public and private entities; proposing, implementing and evaluating inclusion and development policies; contributing ...Read more