Inter-ethnic/State Relations: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Mexico city, 19 September 1996)

IV Civil, political, social and economic rights

D. Participation at all levels

1. It is recognized that the indigenous peoples have been excluded from the decision-making process in the country’s political life, so that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them freely and fully to express their demands and defend their rights.

2. In this connection, it is reaffirmed that the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca peoples have the right to create and manage their own institutions, to control their development and to have a genuine opportunity freely to exercise their political rights. It is also recognized and reaffirmed that the free exercise of these rights gives validity to their institutions and strengthens the unity of the nation.

3. Consequently, it is necessary to institutionalize the representation of indigenous peoples at the local, regional and national levels and to ensure their free participation in the decision-making process in the various areas of national life.

4. The Government undertakes to promote legal and institutional reforms to facilitate, regulate and guarantee such participation. It also undertakes to plan such reforms with the participation of representatives of the indigenous organizations through the establishment of a joint commission on reform and participation, made up of representatives of the Government and of the indigenous organizations.

5. Without limiting its mandate, the commission may consider reforms or measures in the following areas:

(a) Mandatory mechanisms for consultation with the indigenous peoples whenever legislative and administrative measures likely to affect the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca peoples are being considered;

(b) Institutional forms of individual and collective participation in the decision-making process, such as advisory, consultative or other bodies that ensure a permanent dialogue between organs of the State and the indigenous peoples;

(c) Institutions representing the indigenous peoples which defend the interests of the indigenous peoples at the regional and/or national level and which have statutes that ensure their representativity and powers that guarantee the adequate defence and promotion of those interests, including the power to make proposals to the executive and legislative bodies; and

(d) Guarantee of free access by indigenous peoples to the various branches of public service, promoting their appointment to posts within the local, regional and national government administrations whose work most directly concerns their interests or whose activities are limited to predominantly indigenous areas.

V. Joint Commissions

With regard to the composition and functioning of the commission on education reform referred to in part III, section G, paragraph 5, the commission on reform and participation referred to in part IV, section D, paragraph 4, and the commission on rights relating to land of the indigenous peoples referred to in part IV, section F, paragraph 10, the parties agree as follows:

(a) The commissions shall be composed of an equal number of representatives of the Government and representatives of indigenous organizations;

(b) The number of members of the commissions shall be established in consultations between the Government and the Maya sectors of the Assembly of Civil Society;

(c) The Maya sectors of the Assembly of Civil Society shall convene the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca organizations interested in participating in the said commissions for them to designate indigenous representatives to them;

(d) The commissions shall adopt their conclusions by consensus;

(e) The commissions shall base their operation on the mandates set out in this agreement; and

(f) The commissions may request the advice and cooperation of national and international organs relevant to the discharge of their mandates.

Implementation History

1997

Intermediate Implementation

The Agreement on the Implementation, Compliance and Verification Timetable for the Peace Agreements stipulated that proposed constitutional reforms should be presented to the Congress of the Republic for ratification by 15 April, the Follow-up Commission rescheduled the deadline for 15 May. The Guatemalan government presented the draft constitutional amendments to the Congress on 15 May, fulfilling the terms of the agreements.1

  • 1. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/51/936), June 30, 1997.
1998

Intermediate Implementation

All 50 constitutional amendments including legal changes related to increasing the representation of the indigenous population submitted by the Government were approved by the Congress in October 1998. The constitution mandated that they then be submitted to the people for a referendum, scheduled for May 1999.2 

  • 2. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/54/526), November 11, 1999.
1999

Intermediate Implementation

The referendum included numerous provisions and legal changes related to increasing the representation of the indigenous population. The referendum for the full package of constitutional amendments occurred on 16 May 1999. Voters denied the proposed amendments related to the redefinition of the nation and the formal recognition of indigenous peoples and their rights, along with all other proposed amendments.

As provisions for improved rights and protections for indigenous peoples were featured very prominently in the referendum, this outcome indicated that the country was far from reconciled after the formal end of the civil war.3 In the referendum, 366,591 voted against the reforms related to national and indigenous people and 327,854 voted in favor of the reform.4

2000

Intermediate Implementation

The Executive Branch enacts reform measures designed to foster local participation in the selection of leaders, although the gubernatorial candidates put forward by non-governmental members of development councils were largely sidelined. The network of local development councils were deemed ineffective at engendering broad social participation in municipal and community projects that were designed to improve inter-ethnic and state relations.5

  • 5. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/175), July 26, 2000.
2001

Intermediate Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2002

Intermediate Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2003

Intermediate Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Intermediate Implementation

The Government made significant improvements in the decentralization of civil administration. With the passage of three new laws, previously excluded segments of the population were drawn into local decision-making structures and the decisions of Departmental Development Councils were respected by the Government.6

  • 6. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/59/307), August 30, 2004.
2005

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

2006

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.