17 – Migración

Strengthening Organized Civil Society in Guatemala

Yessica Pastor


In large part, the emergence of many of the not-for-profit organizations in Guatemala is a response to the search for alternatives to basic services, which the government is not fulfilling.  As has been noted elsewhere, the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 marked a milestone in Guatemala’s history and in the evolution of economic and social development, both contributing to a blossoming of an organized civil society in the country.

Although recognition of non-governmental groups in Latin America goes back to the post-war years (1946), initiatives in Guatemala noticeable begin in the 1970’s.  And so it was only right that after the Peace Accords Guatemala’s civil society, organized by NGO’s, associations, base groups, cooperatives and others, began to push harder for the people’s participation, for strong defense of democracy and human rights and for community development.

Since then, through this organization (in many cases only because of volunteers) Guatemalan society has looked for ways to make positive change in society.  Yet many of these entities have encountered difficulties beyond maintaining perseverance and motivation among their members.  One shortfall has been the lack of access to processes, which insure internal strength of the organization.  Often organizations have focused on improving the living conditions of the population they serve, neglecting their own institutional needs, which then makes their capabilities, even their sustainability vulnerable.

From this EntreMundos was born in 2001 with the specific objective of consolidating these organizations’ and collectives’ efforts, sharing reinforcement of capabilities and competencies to make their struggles more visible.  As we were twenty years ago, we continue convinced that an organized civil society unifies the plurality of actors and leaders, who not only need to be reinvigorated, but also, motivated and defended, especially in a country like Guatemala where powerful realities affect everything and benefit only a few.

Today, when we add up two decades of work, we can say that we have seen the labor of these local community organizations grow and change and we have seen them face and resist different social, political, and economic challenges.  For twenty years, we have had the good fortune of accompanying these organizations, some of which have grown and developed, broadening their scope considerably.  Knowing we have contributed to the betterment of these groups and to the social transformation, they have realized makes us enthusiastic and fills us with satisfaction.

The scene in Guatemala has changed in 20 years, but we are aware that many aspects and circumstances continue perpetuating themselves.  Social injustice and scarcity continue to batter the nation so the work of these organizations continues to be indispensable.  Undoubtedly, these groups are key to self-management by these communities and the indigenous peoples.

For this reason, we continue under our premise of the importance of supporting these groups so that together we can work for the common good.   From our perspective, we have confidence in the continuance of promoting skill development, interaction among the actors, optimum use of resources and building consciousness.  We hope that all this struggle yields will join us on this path.