Diakonia - People change the world


Diakonia has been involved in strengthening civil society organizations in Guatemala since the internal armed conflict began. Following the end of the civil war and the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, Diakonia has focused on strengthening democratic participation, human rights and gender equality to achieve sustainable peace at all levels.

Guatemala is a post-war country facing multiple challenges in terms of achieving a fully functional democracy. The country is one of the most unequal societies on the planet, with more than half of the population living in poverty – a situation that has not improved in the last 15 years. Indigenous peoples are particularly affected by poverty, and an estimated 75 per cent of indigenous men, women and children live in poverty.

Diakonia’s work in Guatemala aims at strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations in order to consolidate democracy, peace and the rule of law. Dictatorship and socioeconomic inequalities caused a civil war in Guatemala that lasted for 36 years, and a UN-sponsored truth commission concluded that government forces committed “acts of genocide” against indigenous peoples in rural areas during the war.

Focal areas in Guatemala

Diakonia works with Guatemalan organizations that represent women and indigenous peoples in order to strengthen them and help them overcome racism and discrimination. Many of our partners are local indigenous women’s organizations that promote women’s political participation, accompany women who report violence or discrimination, and carry out activities to prevent violence.

Another important aspect of our work in Guatemala is support for processes of transitional justice that aim to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the massive human rights violations of the past.

Diakonia’s work makes a difference

Survivors of genocide made their voices heard: 
In 2000, Diakonia’s partner organizations CALDH and AJR initiated legal proceedings to achieve justice for victims of human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan state during the military dictatorships. As a result of their work, in May 2013 a Guatemalan judge sentenced former dictator General José Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity committed against Ixil Mayans from 1982–1983. However, after pressure from Guatemala’s economic elite, the sentence was suspended. Nevertheless, the survivors of the genocide have made their voices heard and spoken the truth to Guatemala and to the world. 

New social movement:
In 2015, Diakonia carried out a one-year programme in Guatemala, supporting the civil society organizations and the creation of joint agendas supporting human rights. At the same time, the United Nations’ International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala presented proof of an enormous corruption scandal involving high-level officials of the Guatemalan state. As the scandal evolved, so did a new movement in Guatemala City, consisting primarily of young people who took to the streets and used social media to demand an end to corruption. In order to strengthen the protest movement, civil society organizations and social movements representing women, indigenous peoples, farmers and young people, including many of Diakonia’s partner organizations, jointly formed the Social and Popular Assembly (ASP). The ASP provided much-needed leadership and political content to the protest movement and has maintained a close dialogue with Diakonia. In August 2015 the ASP organized one of the largest protest events in Guatemalan history, culminating with the resignation of former president Pérez Molina on 2 September. In 2016 the ASP initiated a dialogue with Guatemalan decision-makers regarding the use and distribution of water resources, putting pressure behind its demands with a big popular manifestation known as the “March for Water”.

Read more about our work in Guatemala

Download documents

2012-human-rights-in-central-america 4236 KB PDF
Letter to the Guatemalan president 110 KB PDF