December 11, 2018
  • Promoting nonviolence and protecting human rights defenders since 1981
PBI Guatemala > What we do > Project focus 

Current work focuses

Due to the complexity of the human rights situation, and the high demand for international accompaniment, presence, and observation, among human rights defenders, we have identified three fundamental themes which provide a medium term focus for the project.

Photo of the exhumation of a mass grave in Xoyabaj.
Exhumation of a mass grave in Xoyabaj.

According to MINUGUA: "impunity in Guatemala is directly related to a weak administration and decision-making on the part of legal institutions [the judiciary, the Public Ministry, the penal system and the Institute of Penal Public Defence], with the absence of interest or desire on the part of the state authorities to investigate or to deal with threats, acts of intimidation, corruption and murder, particularly in the cases in where defendants are in the military, debilitate the cases. Impunity cannot be resolved without important changes within the police, the Public Ministry and the judicial structure. As the accumulated experience from other post-conflict societies indicates, without programmes of internal reform within all the institutions of the judicial system, there will be no perceivable improvements in the reduction of criminality, corruption and impunity."

Learn more about Impunity in Guatemala

Residents of the community "la Mocha" protesting by the side of the road.
Residents of the community "la Mocha"

Guatemala is a country with a largely rural population. Throughout its history, one of its greatest social problems at a structural level, has been access to land. According to the UNDP human development report of 2002, in the last 20 years the concentration of land has continued at an alarming rate. 94.1% of farms (small holdings and family estates) account for only 18.6% of land, while the largest 1.5% of estates account for 62.5% of available agricultural land. Land access was one of the root causes of the armed conflict, and in the last few years, one that has been widely discussed, with the various actors laying out there demands and solutions.

According to Plataforma Agraria, conflict over land is one of the problems which disproportionately affects Guatemala's Indigenous population partly as a consequence of the armed conflict (in particular the effect of the "scorched earth policy") but also due to the rural economic situation, the coffee crisis, the lack of legal recognition for Indigenous land rights, and the lack of a land registry of ancestral lands, which would enable the protection of land pertaining to Indigenous peoples.

Learn more about Land issues in Guatemala

Photo of protests against the CAFTA free trade agreement
Protests against the CAFTA free trade agreement

The process of globalisation is characterised at a global level by large scale production carried out by large private companies, trade liberalization, and increasing economic interdependence. According to the International Human Rights Federation(FIDH) "globalisation should not consecrate the supremacy of the law of market to the detriment of the common values of humanity, within which in first place should be given to respecting human rights for all. This applies equally to developed and developing countries. (...) In the manner in which globalisation represents a process characterised by the reduction in the number of decision-making structures and regulatory bodies, it is important to remind all actors of their responsibilities, be they nation states, companies or international financial institutions (WTO, World Bank, IMF�) so that free trade is not an aim in itself, but that, on the contrary, serves as an instrument for other aims, such as sustainable development and the equal application of human rights across the world, as defined by the Universal Declaration of 1948 and later international agreements"

We work through accompaniment and international observation. The strategy of which is as follows: the placement of specially selected and trained teams of international accompaniers/observers; the training of local NGOs in security systems; coordination with other international accompaniment initiatives; the dissemination of information about the evolution of the local human rights situation; the lobbying of local, civilian and military authorities; the exchange of information with the embassies of third countries and the agencies of the United Nations represented in Guatemala; the creation, maintenance and activation of alert networks and early reaction in the 21 countries where PBI has national groups or partner organisations.

Learn more about Globalization and Human Rights in Guatemala



Oficina del Proyecto: Avenida Entrevías, 76, 4º B, 28053 Madrid, Estado Español, Tel: (34) 918 543 150

Equipo en Guatemala: 3a Avenida 'A' 3-51, Zona 1, Ciudad Guatemala, Guatemala, C.A. Tel: (502) 2220 1032

International Office, Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT, U.K. Tel: +44 20 7065 0775
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