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OACDH en Guatemala (2008-2009)

Human rights context

Guatemala enjoys a rising economy that would guarantee the well-being of all its citizens if its wealth were distributed equally. Instead, Guatemala has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth in the world. The newly elected Government,which will take office in January 2008, faces a myriad of challenges, but none will be more critical than addressing violent and organized crime,which is said to be increasingly infiltrating the political system itself. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Guatemala reports one of the highest intentional homicide rates among all countries for which reliable data are available. The UNDP reckons that violence costs Guatemala the equivalent of 7.3 percent of its GDP each year.

Guatemala, like some of its Central American neighbours, is, according to UNODC, believed to be the transit zone through which 88 percent of the cocaine headed for the United States passes. Civil society is weak. Direct attacks on human rights defenders and both targeted and diffuse threats have prompted self-censorship among human rights groups. Political parties are weak and fragmented, impunity is rampant and criminality is commonplace.

Little progress has been achieved in ten years of postpeace international cooperation, including through the since-withdrawn UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), some of which could be attributed to lack of planning and consistency in implementation. But the greatest weakness identified is a deep-rooted resistance of the wealthiest sectors of society to help fund the State apparatus. With a significantly reduced tax base, the State must function with less than 10 percent of GDP, well below the average in Latin America. The exceptionally bumpy road that led to the approval of the UNsupported International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is proof of the resistance among important segments of society to what is considered an infringement of Guatemala’s sovereignty.

While the CICIG’s approval, through a national emergency voting procedure in Congress, provides an opportunity for the country to start serious investigations of past and present human rights violations and serious crimes with the support of top international investigators, there is a possibility that its functioning may be hampered by resistance by many sectors within and outside the State machinery. The impact of the establishment of CICIG on the work of the OHCHR’s office in Guatemala will be significant, as the UN system will look to OHCHR to provide analysis and support, both advisory and technical, in understanding the working environment and identifying paradigmatic cases.

Guatemala will be reviewed by the Human Rights Council, under the UPR mechanism, during its second session in 2008. OHCHR will negotiate a renewal of the mandate of its Country Office,which is due to expire, in the second quarter of the same year.


OHCHR Guatemala has established positive working relationships with all sectors, including the Government, State institutions, civil society, the media, the UN Country Team and the international community, and has come to be seen as a reliable partner.

Three important laws adopted in 2006-2007, on the penitentiary system, the establishment of the National Institute of Forensic Science, and on organized crime, fully incorporate the Office’s recommendations.

The Office has become well known among the general public, and its media work has helped generate pubic debate on human rights issues. One of the main recommendations of the High Commissioner’s 2006 Annual Report on Guatemala, suggesting the need to gradually increase the tax level over the next three years to allow the State to better respect, protect and realize human rights, caused much debate and was regularly referred to, and supported by, both national and international actors, including the President of the World Bank and the General Manager of the International Monetary Fund during their visits to Guatemala that year.

Through the Office’s technical cooperation activities, members of vulnerable groups, journalists, prosecutors and civil society activists received training on how to claim their rights, how to investigate human rights violations, and other human rights-related issues. OHCHR Guatemala has promoted the value of its work among State authorities and the general public.


The Office will work with duty-bearers to increase their capacity to understand and implement human rights legislation and public policies, and uphold their international obligations. It will work with rights-holders, especially civil society organizations, to encourage them to promote compliance by duty-bearers, including by providing legal services.

OHCHR will cultivate and maintain its partnerships with national, regional and international actors. Training on a human rights-based approach for members of the UN Country Team will be followed up to ensure implementation in programming and budgeting ahead of the new Common Country Assessment (CCA)/ UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) cycle that will start in 2008. Relations with the international community will be strengthened as the Office attempts to bring more focus to the donors’ approach to funding of human rights projects with both the Government and civil society.

With a limited presence of UN agencies, programmes and funds in the country, OHCHR’s Office has a distinctive, and publicly recognized, role in addressing human rights issues. The Office will cooperate with public institutions whose role is crucial for protecting human rights, including the Ombudsman’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and with those that have proved receptive and committed to change, such as the Office for the Defence of Indigenous Women, the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, and the Presidential Commission against Discrimination and Racism. These areas of work are already prioritized in the UNDAF that was approved in 2005, but will be further incorporated during the next CCA/UNDAF cycles, starting in 2008.

The Office will work to reduce gaps in knowledge, commitment and capacity of duty-bearers concerning the ratification of treaties and additional protocols, the submission of reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the participation in the UPR, and the upcoming visits of special procedures. It will also assist civil society organizations in communicating with special procedures and submitting alternative reports to human rights mechanisms. 


Sede principal

División de Creación de Capacidad y de Operaciones sobre el Terreno
El contacto se encuentra en Ginebra, Suiza.

Unidad para las Américas
Teléfono: + 41 22 917 92 48

En el terreno

Jefe de la Oficina
Tel. (502) 2382 3400
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Correo electrónico:

Enlaces externos

Nota : La OACDH no se responsabiliza del contenido de los enlaces externos.

OACDH y su presencia en el terreno

Oficinas regionales

Oficinas de país

Componentes de Derechos Humanos de las Misiones de Matenimiento de la Paz

Asesores en Derechos Humanos/Oficiales Nacionales de Derechos Humanos

Medida 2

Programa de Cooperación Técnica

Instituciones nacionales de derechos humanos