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Sida's work in Guatemala

Guatemala is struggling with deep economic and social divides. Sida supports initiatives to strengthen respect for human rights, gender equality and the rule of law and to increase the ability of Guatemalans to earn a living.

Sida’s support to Guatemala 2020

Progress has been made

82%

of the population are literate, according to the United Nations country analysis.

Lower maternal mortality

According to the World Bank, maternal mortality has decreased from 205 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 95 per 100,000 in 2017. Nevertheless, this remains one of the highest rates in the region.

Lower child mortality

According to the World Bank, the under-five mortality rate has also decreased, from 81 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 25 per 1,000 in 2019.

Challenges remain

Widespread violence against women

Gender-based violence and other violations of women’s human rights are endemic and indicative of an unequal society.

Child malnutrition is common

Guatemala has highest rate of chronic malnutrition among children in Latin America and the sixth highest in the world.

COVID-19 strikes the most vulnerable

COVID-19 has had a major impact on the Guatemalan economy. The most vulnerable in society are most affected by the pandemic, including the loss of livelihoods and lack of healthcare.

Development cooperation in Guatemala

More than two decades after the end of the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), which claimed over 200,000 lives, the implementation of the peace treaty remains one of the country’s greatest challenges. Although Guatemala is a middle-income country, it is characterised by deep economic and social divides. Corruption is widespread and people have little confidence in the state. People are now at risk of falling back into poverty due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A large percentage of the population live in poverty, the majority of them in rural areas and belonging to one of the country’s three indigenous peoples: the Maya, Garífuna and Xinca. Racism and discrimination restrict their lives, political influence and economic conditions.

Human security and freedom from violence

Guatemala is grappling with high levels of violence, corruption and organised crime, as well as the unfinished reconciliation process following the drawn-out civil war.

Restitution for the victims of the civil war

More than 20 years after the peace treaty, Guatemala still has much work to do if it is to heal the wounds inflicted by the civil war and create the conditions for peaceful coexistence, truth and justice. Sida supports the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) in its work to identify the graves and remains of the war’s victims so that surviving relatives can bury their family members. Survivors also receive psychosocial and legal support.  The Foundation also provides expert testimony at war crimes trials, thus contributing to obtaining justice for victims and bringing those responsible to account for their crimes.

The FAFG web page

A stronger judiciary

The judiciary is weak and many of those who have committed crimes remain at liberty. This makes it difficult for women, indigenous peoples and those living in poverty to assert their rights. Sida helps to strengthen the judiciary by supporting the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office, among other things by increasing the capacity of the authority to investigate crimes against women, such as disappearances and murders. This support also helps to ensure that legal processes can be conducted in local languages, thus increasing the access of indigenous peoples to justice. In collaboration with UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has also established a special investigation unit to handle cases of child sexual exploitation.

Democracy, gender equality and human rights

When it comes to gender equality and human rights, Guatemala is struggling to live up to international standards. The country’s public institutions are weak and underfunded, while basic social services such as education and healthcare do not benefit the entire population. Independent media are subject to coercion if they choose to report on ongoing legal proceedings or otherwise seek to reveal corruption and abuses of power.

More youth involvement in politics

Women and indigenous peoples are discriminated against and have little scope for exerting political influence. Organisations and individuals that fight for human rights operate under difficult conditions and risk being subjected to threats and violence. Sida provides broad support to civil society, including strengthening the participation of women, young people and indigenous peoples in the political decision-making process. One example of this is the work of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) to increase the involvement of young people through measures such as providing education on democratic issues, supporting youth organisations and promoting dialogue between government institutions, political parties and young people. This programme places particular emphasis on young indigenous people living in rural areas, young women and young LGBTQI people.

The country programme for Guatemala on the NIMD web page

Educating men about stereotypical gender roles

Despite making some progress – prohibiting child marriage, for example – the situation in Guatemala regarding gender equality, violence against girls and women and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights remains precarious. Sida works to increase gender equality, strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights and reduce gender-based violence. We Effect works to prevent violence against women by educating men about stereotypical gender roles and through media campaigns to increase awareness of gender-based violence. Female victims are offered psychosocial support, something that is particularly important given that cases of domestic violence have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We Effect web page

Sustainable jobs and improved living standards

The majority of Guatemalans work in the informal sector, where wages are low and working conditions poor. One third of the population works in agriculture, a sector vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as drought. Environmental impact and competition for natural resources is a source of conflict between corporations and local communities.

Improved access to food

Guatemala is one of the countries most affected by extreme weather conditions related to climate change, which are adversely affecting farming and people’s access to food. Sida supports rural development through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the FAO, thus improving agricultural production and access to food. This work also helps to introduce new water management methods to dry areas. Research into climate adaptation is conducted via the Rafael Landívar University.

More jobs for young people

Women and indigenous peoples are more likely to work in the informal sector and have a lower average wage than men. Via the non-governmental organisation Helvetas, Sida supports the development of market systems intended to strengthen local value chains. Swisscontact works to create jobs for young people and indigenous women. This is achieved by offering mobile training courses in rural villages and by helping to develop businesses.

Governance of Sida's development cooperation with Guatemala

Updated: 4 August 2021