Diakonia has worked in Guatemala since the internal armed conflict, supporting humanitarian and human rights work with civil society organisations. With the Peace Accords the focus has increasingly been to work in democratic participation, human rights and gender equality to achieve a sustainable peace culture at all levels.
In Guatemala, half the population lives in poverty. The gap between rich and poor is huge. The society is very much characterized by racism. Most vulnerable are the indigenous Maya women. Diakonia works togehter with local partner organizations to strengthen the Mayan people's rights and combat the oppression of women. Photo: Markus Marcetic
Working for a culture of peace
Nowadays, the political empowerment of rights holders, of which the vast majority belongs to the indigenous peoples, is being prioritised as a development strategy.
As part of the networking strategy, Diakonia also develops advocacy processes on a national and international level to influence the creation of public policies that address to structural changes in the country.
The construction of a culture of peace, the promotion of a multi-cultural coexistence and affirmative actions for gender equality are mainstreamed in all of Diakonia’s work.
Peace agreement in 1996
Guatemala is a country in which the indigenous people Maya coexist with the Garífuna, Xinca and Mestizo. In 1996 a Peace Agreement was signed that put an end to the internal armed conflict, which lasted more than 36 years, and this raised expectations for the creation of democracy and the recognition of the country’s multicultural, multilingual and multiethnic character.
The structural causes behind the conflict remain
However the structural causes that created the conflict; racism, discrimination and exclusion still persist. Official statistics show that more than half of the population lives in poverty and about 15 per cent in extreme poverty (2010); the majority are indigenous peoples, mainly women, from the rural area. In addition, the current context of insecurity, criminality, organised crime related to illegal narcotic business and the very high impunity rate, make Guatemala one of the most violent democratic countries in the world.
Guatemala is a typical macho culture, heavily wounded by violence. The civil war has left deep scars and Guatemalan women are especially exposed. In Guatemala more women (per capita) are murdered than anywhere else in the world (2009), and the murders, the so-called “femicidios”, are characterized by raw brutality and hatred towards women.