ICCO supports Guatemalan Indigenous Peoples in their efforts to find justice for human rights violations and defend and govern their territories. ICCO collaborates with forest communities in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, developing innovative and sustainable forest management models. We also empower indigenous youth by strengthening their leadership abilities and advocacy tools to defend their rights.
Av. Fuerza Naval No. 1238 entre calles 19 y 20 - Calacoto
La Paz, Bolivia
Guatemala is an ethnically and culturally diverse nation. It was once the heart of the Mayan civilization, one of the most important pre-Hispanic cultures of the Americas. The country is famous for its unique ecosystems and it’s considered a biodiversity hotspot. It´s home to the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, which has the largest area of tropical forest in Central America.
Over half of its inhabitants are of mixed indigenous and European descent, and, a similar percentage of Guatemala’s population (about 41%), are of indigenous ancestry, which makes it one of the Latin American countries with the highest number of indigenous people, after Peru and Bolivia. 21 one Mayan languages are spoken in Guatemala especially in rural areas, but not one of these are legally recognized as national languages. This is representative of the discrimination faced by Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala, whom have been marginalized for centuries.
Similarly to its neighboring countries, Guatemala endured a civil war (1960-1996). During this period, the Mayan population was persecuted and massacred. An emblematic human rights violations case, was the genocide of the Mayan Ixil population, for which many years later, ex de facto President, Efrain Rios Montt, was trialed and found guilty.
While at peace, Guatemala has experienced economic growth (it’s the largest economy in Central America) and has had democratic elections. However, high poverty rates, crime, drug trade and corruption maintain an overall state of instability. Civil society and human rights activism have played a key role in Guatemala’s recent context. In 2015, following an investigation conducted by the United Nations Anti-Corruption agency, CECIG, a corruption scheme involving the President, Vice President and leading government officials was made public. There was an unprecedented and massive civil outrage, expressed through peaceful rallies, social media activism and a general national strike. Enough pressure was built and was followed by resignations, impeachments and legal actions against public servants, including the President and the Vice President.
In Guatemala, ICCO is focused on working with Indigenous groups and civil society organizations, centering its programmatic implementation on the following issues: promotion of human rights for Indigenous Peoples; strengthening of leadership and creation of better opportunities for Indigenous Youth; social re insertion programs for youth in conflict with the law; land rights and sustainable forest management models for Indigenous Peoples and forest communities; economic empowerment and better access to fair markets for small farmers.